Who Is Eric Garcetti? L.A. Mayor Visits Iowa and May Be Considering Run for President in 2020

The farms and factories of Iowa may be a world away from the beaches and boulevards of Los Angeles.

But L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti drove home the comparison in a visit to the state Friday.

"Iowa and Los Angeles have a ton in common, not just because we have the USS Iowa battleship in our port," Garcetti said during his visit to a tavern in Beaverdale, reported CNN.

GettyImages-846617454 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti during a joint press conference among the International Olympic Committee, Paris 2024 and LA 2028, at the 131st IOC Session. Getty Images

"We have the same struggles, we have the same hopes right now, and we have the same challenges before us," Garcetti said. "People who are wondering, 'Can I get out from under debt and send my kid to college?' Will I have the opportunity in the future economy to find a place for me in it?'... People here are sick and tired of Washington, or the state capital, telling us what we should do in our local communities."

The state holds the first major contest of the presidential campaign, and 46-year-old Garcetti’s tour is a clear signal of his presidential ambitions.

Rumors of a potential White House run started last year with visits to Wisconsin in June, where Garcetti spoke at the state's Democratic Party convention; New Hampshire in August, where he stumped for a Democrat mayoral candidate; and Indiana in November, where he attended the inaugural meeting of the nonprofit Accelarator for America.

After ruling himself out of a run for California governor's office, he has done nothing to quell the presidential rumors. 

“There are 23 states that have a population smaller than Los Angeles,” he remarked in a December interview with The New York Times. 

History is not on Garcetti's side, as no sitting mayor has ever become U.S. president. 

These are not normal times however, and a number of Democratic mayors countrywide are considering presidential bids. Among them are New York’s Bill de Blasio; Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; and Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor.

Little known outside Southern California, Garcetti was elected as mayor of Los Angeles in 2013. 

Of Jewish and Mexican descent, he is the son of Gil Garcetti, the district attorney who prosecuted O.J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her lover, Ron Goldman, in 1994-1995.

Since his election, Garcetti has advocated for Dreamers, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients—whose status in the U.S. is under threat from the Trump administration—as well as the Paris climate accord.

In August, he relaunched L.A.'s 2028 Olympics bid. 

He was reelected in a landslide in March 2017.

Daunting hurdles lie in Garcetti's path to the White House, with rural and suburban voters, who make up the largest voting bloc in the U.S., traditionally reluctant to back mayoral presidential candidates. 

Critics have noted his caution and relatively modest run of achievements in the mayor's office, and lack of experience in national and even statewide elections. 

However, others believe his mixed heritage and staunch support for environmental protection will lend him broad appeal if he decides to launch himself into the 2020 race for the White House.

In his Times interview, Garcetti made a virtue of his outsider status.

“The classic rules of American politics are dying, if not dead, if you look at the last two presidential elections,” Garcetti said. “An African-American could never be president until one was; a TV reality star couldn’t become president until one was.

“There’s definitely an impatient next generation ready to move,” he said.

Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said Garcetti’s intensive early-stage campaigning would pay dividends in a crowded 2020 Democratic field.

"I hate to say what I'm about to say, but he's got some of the Obama buzz that we've been hearing about—somebody who is coming out of nowhere but is dynamic, has a great American story, and has the ability to cross a bunch of different lines within the Democratic Party and with independent voters," Bagniewski told CNN Friday.

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