The plan was to talk about his support for emergency aid for the Rochester City School District.
Then David Gantt said what many had expected for months: He was retiring from the New York state Assembly.
But he refused to give in to speculation, just a few days ago saying, “No one speaks for me but me.”
Gantt talked about gathering signatures to get on the ballot. Asked directly if he was going to retire after the Monroe County Democratic Party endorsed Ernest Flagler in the 137th Assembly District, Gantt said, “That’s not fair.”
On Feb. 7, Gantt announced he would not run.
“I thought it was appropriate,” he said of the timing of his announcement at a news conference initially called to talk about the school district. “Everybody was here. I thought it was the right time to do it.”
He took the opportunity to endorse Flagler, who he said has been chosen to take his place.
Flagler received more than 80% of votes from Democratic committees. But at least two candidates — Natalie Sheppard of Rochester and Silvano Orsi of Gates– plan to challenge him in the June primary.
One of Gantt’s last official acts would be to secure $35 million in state aid for the district, which is dealing with multimillion dollar budget gaps from the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. On top of that, Superintendent Terry Dade has said projected about a $55 million gap for the 2020-21 year.
The $35 million would be for the current deficit. The money would have to be repaid.
Gantt said he hoped that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would allow the funding, which would come with conditions such as a monitor for the district’s finances.
Gantt has represented the 137th since 1983. Before then, he represented the 22nd Legislative District in the Monroe County Legislature.
He spent more than four decades in politics. “That’s very tough to do,” he said.
For the past few years, Gantt has been dealing with health problems. He said his doctor told him to give up the stress and “try to do something else. That’s what I will do.”
He said a typical new morning for him would be having a cup of coffee and deciding how to spend the day. He said he wanted to work with youth.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who had worked for Gantt, described him like a father to her. “He saw potential in me when few did. He inspired me, took care of me when I was sick, guided me as I built my career and my family. And, he will always be part of my family. He has not only lifted me up, but countless people throughout our community.”
Her statement continued: “David remains as fierce as a lion. Courageous in standing up for those he serves and he has always spoken truth to power on their behalf. Even today he continues to fight for Rochester’s children. And, why has he done this for decades? Because of his love of others. Of those in need, of those who could not do so for themselves. He has always lived and worked as a servant leader – allowing his faith to guide him.
“I am not sad today. I am proud of David; proud of his work, proud of his example and proud to have the opportunity to fight for Rochester with the same spirit and strength. I know that together we will work until his last day on behalf of our community and its children. And, for that, and for everything he has done and will continue to do for me and for all of us, I am grateful.”