Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan threw his support behind 2013 mayoral hopeful Austin Beutner on Wednesday, saying the former investment banker has the business savvy to bring jobs to Los Angeles.
“The basic thing is jobs, jobs, jobs,” Riordan said. “And that’s what Austin’s about.”
The endorsement is a boon for Beutner, a political newcomer who will probably face a crowded field of competitors. It comes less than a week after Beutner filed paperwork to explore a campaign to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will be termed out of office.
Riordan and Beutner announced the news at a factory downtown.
Beutner, who has spent the last 15 months working under Villaraigosa as “jobs czar” and with the title of first deputy mayor, said he helped the owners of the rice cake factory open up earlier this year by guiding them through the city’s lengthy business permitting process.
“We cut the red tape,” Beutner said. “This should be the example, not the exception.”
Riordan, a Republican and an occasional critic of Villaraigosa, whom he has faulted for last year’s cuts to library hours and the city’s ongoing budget woes, said the mayor’s decision to hire Beutner for $1 a year was a “turning point” for the city.
“Now we’re off and running,” Riordan said.
Beutner resigned his role as jobs czar last week. If he embarks on a campaign for mayor, he will have to decide how closely to align himself with Villaraigosa, political observers say.
That question arose awkwardly Wednesday, when Beutner’s team scheduled the news conference announcing Riordan’s endorsement at the same time as a news conference held by Villaraigosa on the budget.
The mayoral aide responsible for preparing Villaraigosa’s budget said he had not known about the Beutner event.
“You’re informing me of something I did not have any clue about,” said Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo.
Beutner called the scheduling conflict “absolutely an accident” and said he did not mean to upstage the mayor.
A spokesman for Beutner, Sean Clegg, said he hoped Riordan’s endorsement would help Beutner “compete in areas that were Riordan’s strongholds.”
Those strongholds include fiscally conservative voters and business groups.
Other potential mayoral candidates who might court the business vote — City Councilwoman Jan Perry and developer Rick Caruso — would not comment on Riordan’s endorsement.
Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel and radio personality Kevin James have each formed fundraising committees. Caruso is also weighing a run, as are City Council President Eric Garcetti, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Even with Riordan’s endorsement, Beutner has a long road ahead of him. His name recognition is low compared with many of his potential challengers, and he is not used to the political spotlight.
While Riordan grinned for the cameras and joked with reporters on a tour of the factory, Beutner was far more reserved. During the announcement of the endorsement, he spoke so quietly that he could hardly be heard above the din of the machines.
Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.