By Mary O’KEEFE
Assemblymember Mike Gatto announced on Wednesday that he has decided not to run for the State Senate in 2016.
“Many factors influenced my decision, but foremost was my belief that campaigning at this time would not be in my family’s best interest,” he stated in an email to constitutes.
Gatto is the father of two young children and he and his wife are planning to have another child in “the immediate future.”
He also cited his father’s murder case that still remains unsolved. His father, Joe Gatto, was murdered on Nov. 12, 2013.
Joe, 78, was an artist and teacher. His body was found in his home in Silver Lake with a gunshot wound. At the time, Los Angeles police investigators believed someone broke into Joe’s home. A male suspect, 18 to 25 years old, was seen in the area near the time of the murder. The man is suspected of being involved with a car burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.
On Nov. 12 this year the Gatto family, friends and community members held a candlelight vigil at Tesla pocket park near Joe’s home.
“Two years ago today, right about this time of night, my father was likely drawing his last breaths,” said Gatto. “None of us know how long we’re going to have on this planet, and we certainly don’t know how long others will have. But there’s one thing that I think everybody here can agree on and that is that my father was taken too soon.”
He mentioned his father the day before at a Veterans’ Day event at Two Strike Park. He shared an unusually personal recollection of his father’s last Veterans’ Day.
“I am the family historian,” he told the Veterans’ Day audience.
He had spoken to many of his family members who were veterans about their service including a cousin who served in Vietnam, an uncle and grandfathers who served in WWII and yet did not speak to his father about his service in the Second World War.
“With my dad it was different. My dad had served in the [U.S.] Army. He was younger and healthier than most of my other family members and I was convinced that he would live forever,” he said.
His dad never attended Veterans’ Day ceremonies, it wasn’t “his thing” but he and his father did develop a tradition.
“I would go to the ceremonies in the morning, I would give my speech and we would talk a lot about what we can do as a society to help veterans and then I would go and have dinner with [my dad],” he said. “It would be a simple tradition. We would never talk about his experience. It was just something we would do to mark the day.”
But two years ago with the ceremonies and meetings in Sacramento, Gatto had to fly to the Capital putting his father-and-son tradition on hold.
“I did get to talk to my dad. I remember vividly, I asked him for a recommendation for a plumber,” he said. “I did not talk to him about his service. I ignored the admonition that we hear here every year to talk to that veteran in your life. Well, the very next day he was gone. He was taken away far too soon and with his death our nation lost another veteran whose stories and experiences died with him and that is something that has made Veterans’ Day a little bittersweet for me.”
He advised those in the audience, especially younger members, to reach out to veterans and ask them to share their stories.
“Don’t let Veterans’ Day become bittersweet for you,” Gatto said.
Family was not the only thing that factored into Gatto’s decision not to run.
“There were other factors as well. I believe the last thing the voters of my district need is a divisive campaign. And the party needs to focus on the big picture, instead of costly internecine fights,” he stated.
The Senate race was gearing up to be an active campaign with fellow candidates former assemblymember Anthony Portantino and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich vying for the same seat.
“Please know that my decision was a difficult one, and it probably caused as much gray hair on my head as the passage of time and the rigors of the job have. I am not disappearing. Your generosity over the years has certainly provided me with tremendous flexibility and many options down the line,” Gatto stated.
Assemblymember Mike Gatto will be termed out of the Assembly in 2016.
Anyone with information concerning Joe Gatto’s case is asked to contact Detectives Barry Telis or Chris Gable at the Homicide Special Section, Robbery-Homicide Division at (213) 486-6890 during regular business hours of Monday through Friday,
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During non-business hours, weekends and holidays, contact Los Angeles Police Dept.’s 24-hour toll-free hotline at (877) LAPD 247 (877-527-3247). Those who would like to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS. To send text tips, text the word TIPLA, a space and then the message to CRIMES (274637).