Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday evening that he would not pursue a run for the White House in 2020, stating that solving Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis and other problems needed his full attention.
“I have decided not to throw my hat into the ring to run for president in 2020. This was not an easy decision given the extraordinary times that we live in,” Garcetti said.
Speaking of Los Angeles and his role as mayor, Garcetti said, “I realized that this is what I am meant to do, this is where I want to be and this is a place where we have so much exciting work to finish.”
Garcetti, a Rhodes Scholar who has deep ties to Democratic progressives and close relationships with many California donors, had flirted with the idea of a presidential bid for more than a year, visiting the early-voting states of Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.
But in the end, facing a potentially enormous and formidable Democratic field, he decided that the crises in his hometown, including traffic and huge infrastructure projects, deserved his full focus.
Garcetti has close ties to former President Barack Obama and was one of his earliest supporters in 2008. That might have helped his dark horse candidacy. But he also has many close friendships with candidates who have announced or will announce, including Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Garcetti would have entered a Democratic field that is only expected to get more crowded in the coming months. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Buttigieg have all announced exploratory committees, while Sen. Kamala Harris, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and others have all announced formal campaigns.
In his travels through the early states, Garcetti had framed himself as a big city mayor who solved kitchen table problems. He often pointed out that the population of Los Angeles is larger than that of some states in the US.
A star in activist Democratic circles, he also played up his roots as the grandson of a Mexican immigrant.
He often joked about his heritage as “just your average Mexican-American-Jewish-Italian,” reviving a line from his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
He also played a major role in bringing the 2028 Olympics to the City of Angels.
Garcetti’s advisers had believed his complex identity was part of what set him apart in what will likely become the largest and most diverse field of Democratic presidential candidates in generations.
In addition to being a Rhodes Scholar with undergraduate and master’s degrees from Columbia University, he studied at the London School of Economics. His father was the Los Angeles district attorney who unsuccessfully prosecuted OJ Simpson.
On his first tour of Iowa as a potential 2020 contender, Garcetti attempted to tie his background to the experience of Iowans, who will drive the early race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He said that Angelenos share the same aspirations and concerns as Iowans – including crumbling infrastructure, traffic and homelessness.
Garcetti played coy with his presidential aspirations earlier this month. When asked about his thinking on the issue, he said, “Stay tuned.”
But at the same news conference, the mayor laid out an argument for why a mayor should be the Democratic nominee for President.
“The old saying was that states are the laboratories of democracy. I think that has even further devolved into cities,” Garcetti said. “Even if I don’t run, I hope a lot of mayors do run. And if I do run, I will be proud to be on a stage with other mayors.”
Garcetti’s recent focus, however, hasn’t been electoral politics. After thousands of teachers walked off the job in Los Angeles earlier this month, Garcetti helped broker a deal between the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the Los Angeles Unified School District, and teachers went back to work earlier this week.
Garcetti said the teacher’s strike “stopped my thinking” about running for president in 2020, but “didn’t change it.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.