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L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas won’t run for mayor in 2022

Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas in November.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas announced Monday that he will not run for mayor, saying he intends to keep his focus on addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.

Ridley-Thomas, who has represented parts of South Los Angeles for three decades, told an audience at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum he would stay on the council, where he chairs the powerful committee currently grappling with how to find housing and services for tens of thousands of people living on the streets.

“My calling and focus is that of the homeless crisis in the city of Los Angeles, and I will double down and lean in on that particular issue,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas said he had not been concerned by polling or by the challenge of raising money for a mayoral bid. But he argued that he would have more power to address homelessness as a councilman than if he were mayor, a position that would have required him to focus more heavily on the Police Department, the Fire Department and many other city agencies.

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So far, City Atty. Mike Feuer, City Councilman Joe Buscaino and San Fernando Valley real estate agent Mel Wilson have entered the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was first elected to the post in 2013.

Ridley-Thomas’ announcement comes a few weeks after another well-known political figure in South Los Angeles, Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, confirmed that she had been asked by supporters to consider her own mayoral run. Some in her orbit had suggested that she would be far less likely to run if Ridley-Thomas was in the race.

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Ridley-Thomas said he has not asked Bass to enter the contest but predicted she would be a formidable force if she did.

“If she were to run, it would send terror through the ranks” of the other candidates, he said.

Council President Nury Martinez, who is weighing her own mayoral bid, praised Ridley-Thomas for his compassion, saying he “would have been a compelling candidate” in next year’s election. Others in L.A. political circles said they would turn their attention to Bass, who is well-liked in progressive circles and was considered for a vacant U.S. Senate seat and as a running mate for President Biden last year.

“Ridley-Thomas supporters like me will be working hard to convince Congresswoman Karen Bass to return home to Los Angeles and run for mayor in 2022,” said Kerman Maddox, a public affairs consultant long involved in civic issues. “The city needs her leadership abilities and her coalition skills to bring people together.”

Several others — real estate developer Rick Caruso, Councilman Kevin de León, Councilman Paul Krekorian and Jessica Lall, head of the Central City Assn. — are still weighing their options and have not ruled out a mayoral bid.

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Garcetti’s term ends in December 2022, but he could leave much earlier. He has been nominated by Biden to become the U.S. ambassador to India but first must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Ridley-Thomas has served in multiple public offices, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the state Senate. He returned to the City Council in December after an 18-year absence, representing a district that stretches from Koreatown to Leimert Park and the Crenshaw corridor.

While laying out his political plans, Ridley-Thomas also offered some assessments of the officials seeking to replace Garcetti. He criticized Buscaino’s more aggressive approach to enforcement around homeless encampments, saying, “you can’t get well in a cell.”

“I’m not going to use this time to bang on any colleagues of mine, but if Joe Buscaino thinks he has the right answer to the problem, then let me just give him a news flash: Joe, you got it wrong,” Ridley-Thomas told the group. “You can’t arrest your way out of this problem.”

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Asked about Feuer, Ridley-Thomas had a more favorable take, saying: “Each time I call him, he’s responsive.”

Buscaino issued a statement Monday saying Ridley-Thomas’ description of his views was both untrue and “out of touch.” The councilman said he has been pushing to restore “basic rules” for access to city sidewalks while also adding a thousand units of permanent and transitional housing — both of which serve homeless people — in his Watts-to-San Pedro district.

“The result is much cleaner streets and a safer community for all — without arresting anyone,” Buscaino said.


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