Only 11 days before a Glendale Democratic Club forum featuring candidates expected to vie for state office in 2016, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) announced on Wednesday he will not run for state Senate next year, citing "many factors" that influenced his decision.
He said the main reason was that "campaigning at this time would not be in my family's best interest."
Gatto, who will be termed out of his Assembly seat next year, said his two young daughters are crestfallen when he is away from home for long periods.
The assemblyman said he and his wife also plan to have a third child "in the immediate future," and he cited the unsolved November 2013 murder of his father as another reason he decided to focus his priorities on his family and not to run.
Gatto, who had been raising money for a Senate campaign and was expected to face former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino of La Cañada for the Senate seat currently occupied by Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), said the Democratic party "needs to focus on the big picture, instead of costly internecine fights," according to a statement.
"I believe the last thing the voters of my district need is a divisive campaign," Gatto said.
A slate of mostly Portantino supporters defeated Gatto's allies in an election of local delegates for the 43rd Assembly District in July, a fracas that was considered by some to be a proxy battle between the politicians and which was a redo of an earlier election that had been contested.
"Running or not running for office is a major decision for anyone to make under the best of circumstances," Portantino said in an email. "Mr. Gatto put his family first, which is very laudable. I wish him well and know he has much to offer the residents of California in the future."
Gatto never formally announced that he would run for the seat, but according to filings with the California Secretary of State, he had raised $1.9 million by the end of June through a committee for a Senate campaign. Portantino's Senate campaign committee had raised more than $900,000 by that time, according to filings.
Other Democrats raising money for the 2016 race for Liu's seat include Phlunte' Riddle, Katherine Perez-Estolano and Chris Chahinian. Combined, the three candidates' committees have reported raising nearly $110,000, though more than $90,000 of that has gone to Riddle, a former Pasadena police officer who has been endorsed by several local police unions.
Michael Antonovich, Los Angeles County mayor and longtime member of the Board of Supervisors representing the Fifth Supervisorial District, is expected to run on the Republican ticket seeking Liu's seat. His Senate campaign committee had not reported any contributions, so far, according to the Secretary of State's office.
Gatto touted his accomplishments in the more than five years since he was elected to the Assembly in June 2010 in a special election to fill a vacancy left when then-Assemblyman Paul Krekorian stepped down to serve on the Los Angeles City Council.
Gatto said he's not "disappearing" — he has flexibility and options, he said — though he did not say specifically what he plans to do when his Assembly term ends next year.
Filings with the Secretary of State's office indicate Gatto may be exploring a run for lieutenant governor in 2018. A committee for that campaign had raised roughly $48,000 as of June 30, filings show, and Gatto could add his Senate campaign war chest to that amount.
The 41-year-old said he's tried to be "a different kind of lawmaker" during his tenure, including attempts to engage the public through social media and "crowdsourcing" legislation. He said he's answered every email sent by constituents, has never taken an out-of-state junket and has never missed a vote in 9,370 opportunities.
Among the legislative accomplishments Gatto cited was his work to pass a tax incentive bill to encourage film and television productions to stay in California and a statewide alert system to catch hit-and-run drivers.
Chad Garland, email@example.com