Eric M Garcetti, the two-term mayor of Los Angeles who has flirted with the higher office the last two years by crisscrossing the country and raising money for the Democratic Party, said Tuesday he was not running for his party’s nomination for president. Garcetti has spent the better part of two years saying he was actively considering running for president but explained Tuesday that he wanted to continue his work in Los Angeles.
“I just feel a deep commitment to that work,” he said at a news conference. “The truth is right before me. The work is in front of me.”
Garcetti would have joined a crowded and growing field of Democratic presidential candidates — including his home-state senator, Kamala Harris — and would have done so facing long odds. No sitting mayor has ever been elected president. The mayor praised Harris and said he was “proud” and “excited” about her candidacy; he did not make any endorsements, however. He also had good words for several Democrats who are now considering 2020 bids: He said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was a close friend of many years, and called former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg a “good friend and mentor.”
Asked if he would consider being a vice-presidential candidate, he said, “I think I got a better job than that.”
Garcetti, 47, is a former Rhodes scholar who has spent much of his professional life in city government, and reflects the diversity of the city he leads, with Italian, Jewish and Mexican roots. In a city that is majority Latino, Garcetti, when speaking publicly, often switches back and forth between English and Spanish. He grew up as the son of a prominent public official in the city — his father, Gil Garcetti, is a former district attorney who became nationally known as the prosecutor leading the O.J. Simpson trial.
Eric Garcetti, along with other leaders in a state that has steadily become more liberal, has eagerly touted Los Angeles — and California — as a counterweight to the agenda of President Donald Trump, giving him a national profile that he, at one point, thought could make him a viable national candidate. He has embraced Los Angeles’ role as a sanctuary city that protects immigrants in the country illegally from federal immigration authorities, and sought to shape the agenda of the Democratic Party by pushing for more liberal policy goals.
In an interview in late 2017 with The New York Times, as he was already thinking about running for president, Garcetti described himself as a member of the “impatient next generation” of Democratic leaders.
For all his appeal as a Democratic candidate, he has few major accomplishments to point to as the mayor of Los Angeles, a famously decentralized place where the mayor has lesser powers than one would in other major cities. But he is coming off a high point, having helped negotiate an agreement to end the recent teachers’ strike in the nation’s second-largest school district. He has also been credited with expanding public transportation, and helped secure the Olympics for Los Angeles in 2028.
But he has presided over the city at a time when homelessness has skyrocketed. While Garcetti can claim success in persuading voters to pass a ballot measure to build housing for the homeless, tens of thousands still live on the city’s streets.
Tent encampments have sprouted seemingly everywhere — under freeway overpasses, in parks, on street corners. As he weighed whether to run for the presidency, the ease in which any opponent could film dystopian scenes of the Los Angeles streets in attack campaign ads was seen by some as a deterrent to running.
At his news conference, Garcetti repeatedly underscored his desire to keep working on his goals for Los Angeles.
“This is where I wanted to be,” he said. “This city deserved my attention.”