Flagler-Mitchell joins race for David Gantt’s Assembly seat
Ernest Flagler-Mitchell is the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for the 137th District State Assembly seat.
David Gantt has held the seat for nearly 40 years, but it's not clear if he'll run again. Gantt, 78, is dealing with health concerns and has not yet declared his intentions.
Flagler-Mitchell, 41, is a former firefighter who has been in the Monroe County Legislature for five years. He was just re-elected as assistant minority leader. He also trains future firefighters at East High School.
He said constituents urged him to run for Assembly, and after talking the opportunity over with his family, he jumped in the race.
Flagler-Mitchell had kind words about Gantt’s tenure in the Assembly, calling Gantt “a champion” on behalf of poor and middle-class Rochester residents. He credited Gantt with developing young politicians and community leaders like himself.
“David is a legend. And no one can take away the work that he’s done. In my mind, I think these last few years, the media has not appreciated him like I think they should have,” said Flagler-Mitchell.
Rochester Board of Education Commissioner Natalie Sheppard, 33, is also running for the position. Flagler-Mitchell called Sheppard “young” and a “good person,” but said he’s concerned that Sheppard and other board members would run for another office during the district’s current fiscal condition. Board of Education President Van White ran for City Court judge last year.
“One thing I always look at is the school district got a billion-dollar budget, the county has a $1.2 billion budget,” he said. “The district deals with about 26,000 students. The county deals with about 750,000 people. And if we’re able to balance a budget, what is going on over there?”
The school district laid off 150 staff members last month as part of an effort to bridge its $65 million budget shortfall.
Flagler-Mitchell said the Assembly district would be one of his two focus areas if he wins the seat. The other would be developing minority business owners.
The Assembly district covers parts of northeast and southwest Rochester and the town of Gates.