Eric Garcetti on Presidential Bid: America 'Needs' a Mayor
Garcetti, who won reelection as mayor of Los Angeles last year, has made no secret of his presidential ambitions. In an interview, he suggested a mayor would be more pragmatic and "decent" than President Trump.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti likes to joke that "no sane person would actually ever run for president."
He might just be crazy enough to do it.
Garcetti has made little secret of his presidential ambitions. In a new interview with Governing, Garcetti says he may well make the jump in 2020. "In an ideal world, I'd see this term out," he says. "I am, at the same time, really concerned about the country and the direction of the country."
Without naming President Trump, Garcetti said that a president needs to be "practical, results-oriented, inclusive and decent."
"We have a lot of indecency," Garcetti told Governing President Cathilea Robinett in an interview for the new podcast "In the Arena," which is launching next month. "We have a lot of division, we have a lot of impracticality, we have a lack of experience in government."
Garcetti visited Iowa last month, making him the first prospective Democratic candidate to visit all four early voting states, following trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Garcetti, who is 47, will have a lot of work to do introducing himself to voters outside California. He won election to a second term last March with 81 percent of the vote, but it's unlikely many voters have heard of him outside Southern California.
Garcetti is fond of pointing out that more people live in Los Angeles than 23 states. Still, Garcetti concedes that the presidency "seems like a big jump for mayors to consider."
Historically, there's no question Garcetti is correct. No mayor has ever been elected president directly, and only three former mayors -- Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge -- have ever made it to the White House. The presidential runs of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and his predecessor John V. Lindsay in 1972 both fizzled quickly.
Garcetti says he hopes, even if he bows out, that other mayors will run. "We're exactly what the country wants and needs right now," he says.
Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, who will leave office on Monday, have all either hinted at runs or been the subject of speculation.
In February, conservative columnist George Will noted that Garcetti's combined Russian Jewish and Mexican heritage, to say nothing of his leadership of polyglot Los Angeles, can speak to the shifting demographics of the country. Garcetti is also a generation younger than some of the best-known aspirants in what is likely to be a crowded field -- an "impatient generation," as Garcetti has said.
"Los Angeles mayors are not powerful -- the schools are run by others -- and he must get along with the mayors of 87 other cities in Los Angeles County," Will wrote. "This is, however, training for the presidency, which is less powerful than those who seek it think it is, until, in office, they must deal with Washington’s rival power centers."
Los Angeles is contending with a serious homeless problem, as well as a housing crunch in general. But Garcetti, who spoke with Robinett before addressing Governing's Summit at Performance and Innovation in Los Angeles, has convinced voters to devote billions of dollars to housing and infrastructure.
The city's economy is booming, posting record numbers of tourists last year. Garcetti can brag about landing both the 2028 Summer Olympics and a museum being built by Star Wars creator George Lucas, a billion-dollar project that ran into snags in both Chicago and San Francisco.
Given all that, Garcetti doesn't sound as if he'd be too disappointed if he ultimately fails to catch fire among out-of-state primary voters. "I'm not looking too far in the future because I have a lot of work undone in L.A.," he told Robinett. "I think this will be the best job I ever have in my life."