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Garcetti plans to remain in office and says his daughter, 9, has coronavirus

Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a lectern
Mayor Eric Garcetti, shown in July, said he will remain in office rather than join the Biden administration.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he plans to remain mayor, an announcement aimed at ending speculation that he might join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

He also announced at a briefing Thursday that his 9-year-old daughter, Maya, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Both Garcetti and his wife, Amy Wakeland, tested negative, he said.

Garcetti said he told the Biden team this week that he wanted to remain in Los Angeles. “There were things on the table for me,” Garcetti said.

He declined to name the positions available to him. He also did not definitively rule out leaving office before his term ends in 2022.

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Garcetti made his remarks from the Getty House, the mayor’s official residence, and said that he and his wife are quarantining in light of his daughter’s diagnosis.

Talking broadly about the pandemic, he said that “there is nothing more important to me, no task more urgent than being here as your mayor.”

Garcetti was a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign, helped vet vice presidential candidates and was widely viewed as a contender for a Cabinet position, perhaps leading the Department of Transportation or Housing and Urban Development.

Instead, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was tapped this week for the Transportation spot, while Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge was announced as the nominee last week to lead HUD.

That left a dwindling number of available posts for Garcetti, who was also eyed as a possible contender to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reported.

But on Thursday, Biden picked Michael Regan, a state regulator in North Carolina, to head the EPA.

A source familiar with those discussions told The Times that Garcetti was informed this week that he didn’t get the EPA administrator post. The source, who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, asked to remain anonymous.

A Garcetti spokesman declined to comment. A Biden transition representative didn’t immediately respond to questions from The Times.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti hasn’t ruled out stepping down to join President-elect Biden’s team, but it’s unclear what job might be available to him.

Any nomination to a Cabinet position for Garcetti could have brought unwanted scrutiny to allegations made against him by his former bodyguard.

The bodyguard, a Los Angeles police officer, alleges that Garcetti’s longtime advisor sexually harassed him and that Garcetti failed to intervene. Garcetti denies witnessing any harassment and the advisor has said he didn’t harass anyone.

A judge on Thursday ordered Garcetti to be deposed in the case.

Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and other activists have gathered regularly outside the mayor’s official residence, the Getty House, to protest any Garcetti appointment.

Following Garcetti’s briefing Thursday, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah said the daily demonstrations worked.

“Political calculations were made and Garcetti carried too much baggage with him, including lots of very loud protesters who vigorously opposed any such appointment,” Abdullah said.

Devon Manney, spokesman for Koreatown-based homeless outreach group Ktown for All, said Thursday that the group hopes Garcetti “starts listening to the activists demanding he step up and provide real solutions to help Angelenos, rather than pretend his hands are tied.”

Garcetti’s decision to remain in Los Angeles comes as the city faces several crises, including the ongoing pandemic, a fiscal emergency at City Hall and rising crime.

The availability of intensive care unit beds throughout Southern California dropped Thursday to 0%, generating alarm about the region’s ability to cope with the surging number of COVID-19 cases.

Garcetti was praised for his handling of the pandemic in the spring, including his support for widespread coronavirus testing and for his calming demeanor when addressing anxious Angelenos.

More recently, he’s faced criticism over the city’s messaging on restrictions and for supporting the ban on outdoor restaurant dining.

With Garcetti staying in Los Angeles for now, he’ll have two more years to grapple with the immediate challenges facing the city.

In an interview with KNBC-TV Channel 4 last month, Garcetti acknowledged the tough moment facing the city but pointed to the 2028 Olympics and new rail lines that are being built across the region.

“I would never bet against Los Angeles long-term,” Garcetti said. “This is going to be a powerful economy and a powerful place with prosperity.”

Times staff writer Anna Phillips contributed to this report.


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