City Hall watchers were buzzing this afternoon following an Axios report that Eric Garcetti may step down as Mayor of Los Angeles. The report said that President Joe Biden is considering appointing Garcetti “to a high-profile ambassadorship, possibly India.” It cited “people familiar with the matter.”
Garcetti has one more year left in his second term. An early departure would mean leaving Los Angeles as the city struggles with a crushing homelessness crisis and seeks to emerge from the wreckage of the coronavirus.
Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar told Los Angeles, “Today’s Axios story is speculative. We aren’t going to engage in speculation. We’re 100% focused on ending the COVID pandemic and passing a justice budget for the city.”
It is not the first time that speculation about Garcetti’s future has bounded across Los Angeles. The mayor spent more than a year on his own sort of soft run for president, and in 2018 alone he visited 17 states. In January of 2019, without ever formally announcing a candidacy, he called reporters to City Hall to say he would not be throwing his hat in the ring.
Garcetti was an ardent supporter of Biden during the 2020 election, serving as a national co-chair of the Democratic party nominee’s ultimately successful campaign against President Donald Trump. After the election, Garcetti was a co-chair of the committee planning Biden’s inauguration.
Those roles, and Biden and Garcetti’s longstanding working relationship, prompted speculation that Garcetti was under consideration for a position in Biden’s Cabinet. Yet the Secretary of Transportation job he was reportedly in the running for ultimately went to Pete Buttigieg, and the role of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, another possible landing spot, was filled by Marcia Fudge. Yet another potential role, as a special climate advisor to Biden, did not come to pass.
Rumors also circulated before about an ambassadorship, potentially to Mexico, or as Biden’s liaison to the United Nations.
Yet in December Garcetti shot down the speculation. He started an evening coronavirus briefing by saying that although “there were things on the table for me” with the Biden administration, he would not be leaving Los Angeles.
Citing the worsening pandemic, he said, “I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and I want to be here, and I need to be here.”
The pandemic has since been wrestled largely under control, with rising vaccination rates in Los Angeles and hospitalizations in L.A. County below 500 (more than 8,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 at the height of the winter surge).
Yet Garcetti has come under fire for Los Angeles’ spiraling homelessness crisis. That includes Judge David O. Carter’s recent order that the city and county house everyone on Skid Row by October, and that the city put the $1 billion it plans to spend addressing homelessness in the coming fiscal year in a special account. City and county officials have challenged the order.
Garcetti has also been a target of activists, with Black Lives Matter and other protesters repeatedly showing up outside of his Hancock Park home.
Garcetti, who has spent two decades in Los Angeles politics since becoming a councilman in 2001, was elected mayor in 2013. He was easily reelected four years later, garnering 81 percent of the vote.
If Garcetti were to leave office early, City Council President Nury Martinez would take over as acting mayor.
The race to replace Garcetti has already begun, with City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino among those who have announced their candidacy. Other potential candidates include council members Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kevin de León, and Central City Association President and CEO Jessica Lall. A source close to Rick Caruso says the developer is seriously considering a run, but no final decision has been made.
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