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Flagler-Mitchell declares candidacy for Gantt's Assembly seat

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Ernest Flagler-Mitchell has declared his candidacy for the 137th District State Assembly seat currently held by David Gantt.

Gantt has occupied seat for nearly 40 years, but has said he is undecided on whether to run again. Gantt, 78, has kidney disease and last week told CITY his health is "obviously a problem."

At a meeting for designating Democratic candidates on Monday, Gantt reportedly did not signal he was running again and received a standing ovation in recognition of his service over the years. 
Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell - PHOTO COURTESY MONROE COUNTY
  • PHOTO COURTESY MONROE COUNTY
  • Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell

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” for 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 seat.

Flagler-Mitchell called Sheppard “young” and a “good person,” but said he was concerned about any school board member running for another office considering the school district's ominous fiscal condition. Board of Education President Van White ran for Rochester 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 scores of employees last month in 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.

James Brown is a reporter at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at jbrown@wxxi.org.