Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will not run for president in 2020, telling reporters gathered at City Hall that his current job “is what I am meant to do. This is where I want to be.”
Garcetti would have been a longshot for the Democratic nomination, but he had been positioning himself as an alternative in the presidential field who would emphasize his experience running a major city.
But he said that he decided in his own mind several weeks ago not to run but came to a final decision on Tuesday morning. The Los Angeles teachers’ strike “was a kick in the pants for me,” he said, referring to the walkout that ended last week. He played a role in helping both sides reach a settlement.
“There’s a sadness about this moment, but not much,” he said of his decision, adding that he had a new “sense of excitement” about his job and “this is what I am called to do.”
He also cited family reasons. He and his wife, Amy Wakeland, have a seven-year-old daughter.
If he had run, Garcetti would have been one of two Californians in the race. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) launched her campaign last week, and has quickly built name recognition and established herself among top tier contenders. She appeared at a CNN town hall on Monday that drew almost 2 million viewers.
Garcetti said Harris’s successful launch of her campaign did not play a factor in his decision, adding that it was necessary for a candidate to “have it in your heart” to run. He likely would have had to have immediately plunged into a frenetic pace of fundraising and spend a great deal of time in early states like Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He said that at the press conference that his daughter suggested that perhaps he could run when she was older, like at the age of 14.
“This is where I am meant to be,” Garcetti said at his press conference from Los Angeles City Hall.
While he touted the city’s accomplishments under his watch, including winning the bid to hold the Olympics in 2028, Garcetti also continues to grapple with rampant homelessness and worsening traffic. Even in announcing that he would not run, he made the case that mayors would make for good presidents because they are “on the front line” in trying to address such problems.
Garcetti, 47, had been laying the groundwork for a presidential bid over the past year, giving speeches in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and forming a political action committee that raised money for state-level candidates in the midterms. An event in September, featuring Jimmy Kimmel and DJ Khaled, raised $1.5 million.
He also had been stepping up his appearances in national media, with guest spots on Kimmel’s show as well as “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” He was in Washington just last week, addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and contrasted the ability to settle the teacher’s strike with the lingering government shutdown.
Garcetti was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2013 and reelected overwhelmingly in 2017. Because the city changed its election cycle, he still has another four years left on his term.
“It may be out of vogue today, but I kind of believe that whenever possible you should finish the job that you set out to do,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti did not say when or if he would endorse one of the 2020 candidates, but that could be a significant “get” for a campaign. Mathew Littman, a Los Angeles-based political consultant, said that Garcetti had established a “very good reputation” nationally and will still be a leader in the Democratic party. Had he entered the race, he would have had to establish himself against a field that may include other mayors, such as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And in California, he said, “Kamala stands to soak up a lot of the oxygen.”