Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this evening that he will not run for president in 2020, laying to rest months of speculation from curious political correspondents, supportive Democratic leaders, and uneasy Angelenos.
“I’m so proud to be mayor of this city... this city of tomorrow,” he said, speaking to reporters at City Hall in Downtown. “The two things I love the most, my family and my city, are right here in LA.”
Garcetti said he wants to complete his term as mayor, and emphasized his renewed belief in the power of cities to move the country toward “a brighter future and a better day.”
“Call me old fashioned,” he said. “Whenever possible you should finish the job you set out to do.”
The announcement comes on the heels of his role mediating an end to a six-day teachers’ strike at Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation. That “cleared the way,” the Los Angeles Daily News reported last week, for Garcetti “to embark on a national campaign without being accused of ignoring a crisis at home.”
Garcetti said the strike influenced his decision, describing it as a “little bit of a kick in the pants for me.”
His candidacy would have also shone a spotlight on some of Los Angeles’s most prominent shortcomings: the largest unsheltered homeless population in the nation; the worst traffic in the U.S.; and some of the highest poverty rates in the country, thanks to a worsening affordable housing shortage.
Garcetti, a Democrat who speaks fluent Spanish, will turn 48 on Monday. He has never served in a political office outside of Los Angeles, a city with a population of about 4 million. Vox has described him as a “charismatic Rhodes scholar” who “weaves into ongoing debates more skillfully than any politician since Barack Obama.”
According to GQ, in 2010, when Garcetti was a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Obama offered Garcetti a job in the Oval Office as his “urban czar.”
But Garcetti aspired to be LA’s mayor. In 2013, amid historically low voter turnout—only 23 percent of voters cast ballots citywide—he was elected with 54 percent of the vote. Prior to that, he had served on the City Council since 2001.
One of the most biggest initiatives of his first term was leading the push for a gradual increase in the minimum wage citywide. In 2015, he signed a law mandating that businesses pay their employees $15 per hour by 2020.
Garcetti was reelected two years ago in “one of the biggest landslides in the city’s history.” (Though turnout, once again, was low.)
During his second term, Garcetti gained national prominence among Democratic leaders. He currently serves as the president of the “Climate Mayors,” a coalition that has pledged to align with the Paris climate accord after the U.S. backed out of the agreement.
Speculation that Garcetti might run for president swirled as the mayor traveled around the country, visiting key primary states such as New Hampshire and Iowa. According to the Los Angeles Times, Garcetti spent 112 days outside California over a 12-month period in 2016 and 2017.
Sarcastic fliers and a website admonishing the mayor for spending so much time away have cropped up, asking: “Where is Mayor Eric Garcetti?”
In touring the country, Garcetti said today that he observed the “awakening” of cities, from those reinventing American manufacturing to those battling opioid epidemics, and it left him with a “tremendous amount of renewal and excitement” about his job as mayor.
A crowdfunding campaign named “Ready 4 Garcetti” had raised more than $32,000 for a Garcetti campaign, should it have materialized. The Twitter account associated with the campaign has been suspended, but the Facebook page, which has 720 “likes,” is still live.
Garcetti can be credited for luring several high-profile projects to the city during his mayorship, bringing the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Exposition Park, successfully bidding for the 2028 Olympics, and lending support to flashy proposals like Elon Musk’s test tunnel to Dodger Stadium.
He touted today other ambitious projects that are already under way but will not be completed during his tenure, including the revitalization of the LA River and upgrades and improvements to LAX, including the forthcoming people mover.
But his tenure has also been marked with some ambitious initiatives that have fallen short.
In 2018, he announced the “Bridge Home” program that would build 15 temporary shelters for 1,500 homeless residents across the city within a year. Several neighborhoods have pushed back vehemently against the shelters, and almost one year later, one 45-bed shelter has been built.
In addition, warrants served over the past few months as part of an FBI corruption probe of a Los Angeles City Councilmember named Garcetti’s former deputy mayor Ray Chan and Joel Jacinto, a Garcetti appointee to the Board of Public Works. Jacinto resigned earlier this month.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C. for a mayoral conference, Garcetti spoke about the teachers’ strike, tweeting that mayors could have ended the recent federal government shutdown “in a matter of hours,” using the hashtag #MayorsGetThingsDone.
Earlier today, Garcetti tweeted a Los Angeles Times story about mediating the teacher’s strike with the line: “I did what mayors do.”