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Here’s how L.A. picks its next mayor as Garcetti tapped for India post

Los Angeles City Hall
The departure of Eric Garcetti will trigger a chain of events at City Hall that affect not just the mayor’s office, but also potentially the council presidency and the 2022 election.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

After months of speculation, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been tapped for a post in the Biden administration as U.S. ambassador to India.

That decision is expected to set off a chain of events at City Hall that affect not just the mayor’s office, but also potentially the council presidency and the 2022 election — assuming Garcetti’s nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate.

What happens now?

The City Council probably won’t need to find a replacement for the mayor immediately: It could be weeks or months before the Senate takes up Garcetti’s appointment.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee would vet the nomination before sending it to the full Senate, where a simple majority is needed for approval. However, a single senator can block a confirmation by putting a “hold” on the vote.

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How will a replacement be chosen?

With a vacancy in the mayor’s office, the City Council would have the power under the City Charter to formally appoint an interim replacement to serve out the remainder of his term. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who worked for Garcetti before becoming an elected official himself, viewed that as the most likely scenario.

“I think it’s very likely that the council will pick an interim,” O’Farrell said last month.

President Biden selected Eric Garcetti to become U.S. ambassador to India. Garcetti would step down as L.A. mayor after Senate confirmation.

The City Charter also gives the council the authority to call a special election when there is a vacancy in the mayor’s office. But those contests are expensive unless they are consolidated with other elections.

O’Farrell and Councilman Paul Krekorian have already argued against that scenario, saying a special election would likely come too close to the upcoming June 2022 municipal election — and cost far too much money.

“It’s over $40 million, and the timing of it would be such that it would almost coincide with the next regular election,” said Krekorian, who heads the council’s budget committee. “I don’t see that there’s advantage to the people of Los Angeles of doing that.”

Until an interim mayor is appointed or a new one is elected, Council President Nury Martinez would serve as acting mayor, as she does whenever Garcetti is sick or traveling out of the state.

Who might take over as interim mayor?

Behind the scenes, several names have been floated for interim mayor, including Martinez, Krekorian, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Some council members have already indicated that they don’t want someone who would use the interim post as a springboard for a mayoral campaign next year.

Councilman Mike Bonin, currently running for re-election, said Friday that the city needs strong leadership “free of the intruding politics” of the upcoming mayor’s race.

“I think it is important that the City Council name an interim mayor — someone who understands how the city functions and how the budget works, someone who is prepared to confront the homelessness crisis, and someone who is willing to make a commitment to not run for mayor in 2022,” he said in an email.

So far, City Atty. Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino have entered the June 2022 mayoral race. At least four other council members, including Martinez, are weighing the idea.

Real estate developer Rick Caruso and former L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner are also considered possible contenders. The mayoral runoff is set for November 2022.

Business leaders have also weighed in on the succession question. In a statement, the head of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce implored the council to select an interim mayor who has experience in “the inner workings of city government” but has also committed that they will not run for mayor themselves.

That way, “voters will be assured that they alone will decide the future of the city when they cast their vote for mayor in the next election,” said Maria Salinas, the chamber’s president and chief executive.

Times staff writers Dakota Smith and Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report.


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