WARSAW — Longevity was a factor in Assemblyman Dan Burling’s decision not to seek re-election.
“One of the reasons is I believe that everybody has a shelf life in politics, and I don’t believe people should stay around forever,” he said shortly after Monday’s announcement. “I’m in my 20th year of elected office, and I think it’s time to step aside.
“There’s other things going on in my life. There may be other opportunities. I’m not going to rule out running for higher office, but I think 14 years in the State Assembly’s minority is enough.”
Burling, R-Warsaw, said he believes younger people should have the same opportunities he’s had to serve and represent people.
The announcement arrived as statewide redistricting is under way. An initial map in January showed Burling’s 147th District with significant changes, losing four towns in southern Genesee County; 13 towns in Livingston; and numerous Allegany County communities.
The re-numbered 140th district would keep all of Wyoming County, along with gaining 14 towns in Erie County, plus a portion of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.
The final redistricting still needs approval.
Burling says he’s confident he would have won despite the changes. He noted he previously represented the towns of Concord and Sardinia, when they were part of the 147th.
Although former East Aurora mayor David DiPietro announced his intention to challenge Burling in the Republican primary, Burling said he had “a huge outpouring of support” from Erie County.
“I have no doubt that I would have won and won well, but after further reflection and an opportunity to talk to my family and think things over, it provided me a chance for reflection, and an opportunity to say it’s time to step aside ... I want to leave on top. I want to leave with dignity and pride, and having represented the people I’ve represented for years.”
Burling, 65, said he’d support a younger candidate who hasn’t made a formal announcement yet. He declined to say who, but noted the proposed 140th District had taken much territory from Kevin Smardz, R-Hamburg.
Smardz would need to move into the district if he wished to run.
“I think somebody else should have an opportunity and I think there’s room for young people with fresh ideas,” Burling said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to shape New York state.”
Asked about the state’s outlook, Burling praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I think my feeling is Cuomo is doing a good job,” he said. “He’s taking the state in the right direction; he has the political clout and the political capital to deal with some of the very liberal Democrats that want to overspend; and to provide more business opportunities in New York state.”
Burling also noted the need to maintain education funding and find ways to keep young people in the region.
“ ... I think the national economy has turned the corner,” Burling said. “Of course my concern is the high cost of fuels, but I believe Governor Cuomo understands. He’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican, but he understands we need to adopt some of the Republicans’ philosophies of reduced spending and smaller government.”
Burling served six years on the Genesee County Legislature before he was elected assemblyman in November 1998. He lived in Alexander before moving to Warsaw eight years ago.
He was also involved in a failed “revolt” in 2005 against former Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt of Albion, who was minority leader at the time. He was removed from his deputy minority whip job and lost his Ways and Means position as a result.
But both men — whom most considered good friends — quickly agreed to move on. Burling regained the deputy minority whip position last January, and was appointed minority whip in September.
He currently serves on the Rules, Ways and Means, Environmental Conservation, and Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
Burling is well-respected among the conference for his background and ability to articulate a conservative philosophy on many issues, said State Assembly Minority Leader Brain Kolb, R-Canandaigua.
“He had a lot of impact on a lot of issues,” Kolb said about Burling, a Vietnam War veteran who championed veterans’ issues and also was vocal about health care, the Second Amendment and issues in rural Western New York. “He is feisty and outspoken.”
Burling has been a leader in shaping the conference’s agenda on budgeting and legislation, Kolb said. Burling, with his diverse background, carried clout among the Republican members.
“He brings a lot of experience from the private sector and with his military experience,” Kolb said. “People respect when you bring something else to the table besides having a long career in public office.”
Kolb noted that Burling has consistently won re-election. That is a testament to Burling being accessible in the district.
“If you’re not doing the job at home the voters won’t return you to office,” Kolb said. “Dan has always made talking care of the home district a priority with politics coming second.”
Wyoming County GOP Chairman Gordon Brown knew about the decision for several weeks.
“On behalf of the citizens and taxpayers of Wyoming County I want to thank Dan Burling for 14 years of exceptional representation of Wyoming County,” Brown said. “He has been a consistent advocate for Republican principles in Albany, frequently voting against Albany's run away budgets, protecting gun owner rights and delivering for Wyoming County. “
Brown said Burling will be missed as the Assembly’s advocate for Wyoming County, and looks forward to still working with him. He’s also supporting the idea of a Smardz candidacy.
“Kevin Smardz would make an excellent replacement for Dan,” Brown said. “Kevin is a young, energetic Republican who succeeded Jack Quinn III. I look forward to his formal announcement once the district lines are determined.”
Burling owns and operates a small pharmacy and liquor store in Corfu. Smardz could not be reached immediately for comment Monday evening.
Democratic Assemblyman Robert Reilly also announced Monday he won’t be seeking re-election. He represents the 109th district in Saratoga and Albany counties.
(Includes reporting by staff writer Tom Rivers.)
EAST AURORA — Former East Aurora mayor David DiPietro announced his candidacy Monday to replace Assemblyman Dan Burling.
“I am formally kicking off my campaign today for the new 140th Assembly District, which includes part of Assemblyman Burling's former constituency,” DiPietro said in a news release.
“I will run on a platform of cutting taxes, slashing spending, and providing state mandate relief for Erie and Wyoming counties,” he said. “As a small businessman, I know these three issues are at the heart of what is most on the minds of constituents in the 140th — job creation.”
DiPietro said he’ll start meeting in earnest with neighbors and key decision makers to secure the GOP nomination. He also saluted Burling.
“Dan Burling served our country as a Marine and his community as a New York State Assemblyman and he assembled a record that bears special recognition,” DiPietro said. “Dan is a lion in the Republican Party and I offer him my heartfelt respect and best wishes as he begins the next chapter of his life. One thing is for certain: that chapter will surely continue his lifetime of service to his community.”