President Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to become the next U.S. ambassador to India, which would leave a vacancy in the top job in the nation’s second-largest city. The White House made the announcement Friday.
Assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, Garcetti will leave City Hall with more than a year left on his term. The Los Angeles City Council can appoint someone to fill the vacancy or call a special election.
“Today, the President announced that I am his nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to India,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I am honored to accept his nomination to serve in this role.”
Garcetti was elected in 2013, after serving three terms on the City Council. He was re-elected to an unusual 5 1/2-year term in 2017, which is set to expire in December 2022. Several candidates are already angling to run in the June 2022 primary, including City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino.
In the statement, Garcetti said that “when your nation calls, you answer that call.”
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“I love Los Angeles and will always be an Angeleno,” he said. “I want you to know that every day I am your Mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus, and determination. I have committed my life to service –– as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant, and if confirmed, next as an ambassador. Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call. And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”
Garcetti served as a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign, and had been rumored for various posts during the transition. However, in December, Garcetti took himself out of the running, saying that he realized he needed to stay to deal with the pandemic.
“I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and that I want to be here, and that I need to be here,” Garcetti said at the time.
Garcetti will leave a city that is only beginning to recover from the pandemic, and is still in the grip of a homelessness crisis. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles is at 9.9%, above both the state and national levels. Among Garcetti’s accomplishments in office was raising the city’s minimum wage and passing tax measures to fund transit and to build homeless housing.
In the entertainment industry, he will be best remembered for leading a coalition of mayors up and down the state to push for an increase in the California film tax credit from $100 million a year to $330 million. The effort helped neutralize any opposition in Northern California, which had traditionally been skeptical of tax breaks for a Southern California industry.
Garcetti spent much of the early part of his second term flirting with his own 2020 presidential run, visiting Iowa and New Hampshire before ultimately giving up the idea in January 2019.
The role of ambassador to India is not typically a stepping stone on the path to higher office. A rare exception is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served in New Delhi from 1973-75, and who was elected to the Senate in 1976.