Whenever the Los Angeles mayor’s office opens up, there is a knock-down, drag-out election. This usually brings out a cadre of City Hall and other political veterans boasting that they have the know-how and connections to accomplish big things and enact sweeping policy changes. They are inevitably joined by a passel of outsiders who assert that they can bring fresh thinking to the position that essentially means functioning as the CEO of a city with four million residents.
With Mayor Eric Garcetti termed out next year—and potentially departing before that if he takes another job—a number of prominent names are already either in the race or are known to be weighing a run. Now add another one: City Council President Nury Martinez.
Roy Behr, a political consultant for Martinez, told the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News that the council president is giving “serious” thought to joining the race, with her consideration propelled by her efforts to help the city emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Behr did not respond to requests for comment from Los Angeles before this article posted.
If she enters the race, Martinez would join a pair of City Hall figures gunning for higher office. City Attorney Mike Feuer announced his candidacy before the pandemic, and had raised $418,000 through the end of 2020 (the latest campaign reporting period; the next financial updates will be revealed in July). City Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose District 15 includes San Pedro, launched a bid in March.
Two other council members are known to be considering running: District 10 representative Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has spent three decades in elected office, including 12 years as a county supervisor; and District 14 officeholder Kevin de León, who assumed his post last year, and who formerly served as President pro Tempore of the state Senate.
Jessica Lall, the president and CEO of the prominent downtown advocacy group the Central City Association, is also known to be considering a run. Additionally, many political observers are waiting to see if mall developer Rick Caruso, who has flirted with running for mayor before, enters the race; some Angelenos this week received phone calls for polls in which many questions concerned Caruso, raising speculation about his candidacy.
Martinez is a San Fernando Valley native, the daughter of working-poor immigrants; her father worked as a dishwasher and her mother was a seamstress and factory worker. She graduated from Cal State-Northridge. She joined the LAUSD School Board in 2009 and four years later was elected to the District 6 City Council seat, which covers the Northeast San Fernando Valley. She easily won re-election in 2017 and became president of the panel in 2020, succeeding longtime leader Herb Wesson.
Although she has reached the upper echelons of power in Los Angeles, and is the council’s first Latina president, she still endures travails, as she revealed in a first-person account last fall for UCLA Blueprint magazine.
“As council president, I routinely experience racist, sexist, and sexually abusive attacks from protesters outside my home, in City Council meetings, and on social media,” Martinez wrote. “None of that will keep me from doing this job that I love. I am a strong Latina, and just like the people I represent, I don’t quit.”
As council president she has established a family-focused agenda, pushing issues such as a parental leave initiative to give new parents who are city employees six weeks of paid time off. Amid the coronavirus pandemic she has advocated for rent relief and other financial security measures for those whose income has been hammered by an economy that cratered.
It is unknown whether Martinez would step down from her role as council president if she runs for mayor. Wesson relinquished his presidential post in January 2020 so he could focus more fully on a bid for county supervisor (he ultimately lost). Eric Garcetti, who spent six years as council president, gave up that leadership position before he began a run for mayor in 2013.
The mayor’s race most likely will be a multistep process. A primary is scheduled for June 2022, and if no candidate earns a majority of the vote—almost a certainty given the expected wide field—the top two finishers would move on to a November runoff. The winner would be sworn in the following month.
However, that process should be shaken or speeded up: This week, the website Axios reported that Garcetti is among the people Biden is considering appointing to be U.S. Ambassador to India. Garcetti’s office called the report “speculative,” but the mayor, who has a long working relationship with Biden, has often been mentioned as a potential hire for the president. That could necessitate him leaving office for a job in Washington or elsewhere before his second and final term is completed.
If Garcetti were to depart early, the city charter provides for the council president to serve as acting mayor. If the office seems likely to be empty for an extended period, perhaps for many months as a primary and runoff election take place, a “caretaker” mayor could be appointed to the job on a temporary basis.
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