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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
2013 Mayoral Race

For Garcetti, Experience is Double-Edged Sword

The councilmember has a slight lead in the polls heading into the March 5 primary.

City councilmember Eric Garcetti has one of the most recognizable names in Los Angeles politics. Now, he's looking to add "mayor" in front of his name.

Councilmember Garcetti addresses supporters at his South LA campaign office. (Vicki Chen/ATVN)
Councilmember Garcetti addresses supporters at his South LA campaign office. (Vicki Chen/ATVN)

"I am an L.A. kid, born and bred, fourth generation, product of this city, somebody who really believes in LA," Garcetti said.

Garcetti is one of five major candidates vying for office. He is running against city controller Wendy Greuel, fellow councilmember Jan Perry, former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez and radio host Kevin James.


Garcetti is a Democrat and an officer in the Naval Reserve. He is half Jewish, part Italian and part Latino. He speaks fluent spanish.

He lives in Silver Lake with his wife, Amy Wakeland, and one-year-old daughter. His father, Gil Garcetti, is a former L.A. County District Attorney.

The younger Garcetti earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University. He also studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. He then returned to Los Angeles to teach at the University of Southern California and Occidental College.

"On this campus, I used to teach, just over there at VKC, international relations," he pointed out. "I’ve traveled and lived a lot abroad. I see Los Angeles’ success based on the way we can position ourselves in the global economy."

READ MORE: Perry Aims to be L.A.'s First Female Mayor (VIDEO)

(Garcetti Campaign)
(Garcetti Campaign)
In 2001, Garcetti was elected to the Los Angeles City Council to represent District 13. He was unanimously chosen three times to serve as City Council President from 2006-2012.

Garcetti cannot run for a council seat again due to term limits, but he said he is prepared to take on a different role.

"I’ve been the acting mayor three dozen times or so, because whenever the mayor’s out of the state, the council president becomes the mayor," Garcetti highlighted. "I think the mayor is not only the leader of the city of Los Angeles, but really a regional leader as well."

Political expert Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Insitute of Politics, said Garcetti's experience is both positive and negative for the campaign.

"His greatest challenge is making sure that people understand that that experience is valuable to him, without making it seem like he’s tied to business as usual at City Hall," Schnur said. "When times are good, voters look for political experience. When times are bad, when voters are frustrated, they tend to look for outsiders."

"Both Garcetti and Greuel, what they've had to do throughout this campaign is talk about how their experiences helped them get to this point, but make it clear they don't represent the status quo."

READ MORE: Greuel Wants to Balance Budget, Curb Waste (VIDEO)

The status quo is dire for Los Angeles. The city faces a $238 million budget deficit this fiscal year and has struggled to manage its pension and healthcare costs.

"Because he’s just such a nice affable person in terms of demeanor, people ask is Eric Garcetti tough enough?" Schnur said. "Is he willing to be mean? Is he willing to push back in order to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions?"

To that challenge, Garcetti says yes.

"I’ve made those tough calls and I’m prepared to do them," Garcetti asserted. "You need a leader that’s had a proven track record of pension reform, of reducing the cost of our healthcare, and eliminating city positions."

As councilmember, Garcetti voted to cut 5,000 city jobs to reduce spending. He also negotiated with labor unions to have workers contribute more to their pension and healthcare plans.

"The mayor has formal power and I'd definitely exercise that," Garcetti said. "I'd be able to direct departments and hire managers. For instance, I'd ask all general managers to reapply for their positions, so we can bring in fresh blood. Or, those who stay will have that same sense of urgency that I do."

READ MORE: LA Mayoral Candidates Discuss Key Local Issues at Forum

With unemployment at 10.6 percent, Garcetti said he wants to make L.A. more business-friendly.

"I want to bring that sort of leadership saying hey, if you’re a business, we love having you here," Garcetti proposed. "What can we do to help reduce your taxes so you can make the decision to be here and that you spend more money in our economy, hire people here? What can we do to make it easier to get a business started?"

The councilmember points to his own district as an example of successful economic revitalization.

"Silverlake was just chosen as Forbes’ hippest neighborhood in America," the councilmember touted. "Hollywood has roared back. Atwater Village was just chosen as the best neighborhood in LA. Echo Park which used to have graffiti and gang gunfire has just had incredible turnaround."

But to achieve turnaround across the city, the next mayor will have to balance many competing interests.

"To be a successful mayor, you have to bring people together across geographic lines, across political lines," Garcetti said. "I’m proud to be somebody that’s a collaborator, who brings people together with very diverse opinions."

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, March 5. If one candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff election on May 21.

You can follow reporter Vicki Chen on Twitter here.


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Garcetti is a joke. You city council people can't balace a budget!!!

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