Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who flirted with the idea of running for president but skipped the 2020 campaign, endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination Thursday.
Biden and Garcetti promoted the endorsement Friday at an event in Westlake with leaders of the International Assn. of Firefighters.
“He is the right leader at the right moment,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti will be one of Biden’s highest-profile supporters in California’s March 3 primary, but the endorsement is unlikely to have any practical effect on the highly competitive race. Dianne Feinstein, the state’s senior U.S. senator, is also supporting Biden. And Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who had endorsed California Sen. Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the presidential race, also announced his support for Biden on Thursday.
Biden is a solid front-runner in national polls of Democratic voters but is in a tighter race for the lead in California, where polls show Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts running nearly even with the former vice president. The 416 delegates at stake in California’s Super Tuesday primary are the biggest prize of the campaign for the party nomination.
Since Garcetti was first elected mayor in 2013, he has devoted much time to building a national political network. He is a member of the Democratic National Committee and vice president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. The Los Angeles Times found he spent nearly one-third of his time outside California in a one-year period ending in September 2017, including trips to states with crucial presidential contests, such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
After almost two years of weighing whether to make a bid for the White House, Garcetti announced at City Hall a year ago that he would not run in 2020, saying, “This is what I am meant to do and this is where I want to be.”
Left unsaid was that the surge in homelessness on his watch would have posed a huge challenge in a presidential race. Tent encampments have sprouted citywide on freeway overpasses, in underpasses and along sidewalks, alleys, beaches and riverbanks.
At the Westlake event on Friday, Biden recalled telling Garcetti at the time, “I’m happy you’re not running because you might beat me” but sad because he saw the mayor as qualified to lead the country.
On Thursday afternoon, Biden toured a $1.5-billion bridge replacement project in Long Beach with Garcia.
“This bridge will carry 15% of all of America’s cargo by truck up across the bridge connecting Long Beach to Los Angeles. During the Obama-Biden administration, they provided the funds for us actually to construct this bridge,” Garcia said. “And so we’re very grateful to the leadership that the vice president really was all about when it came to infrastructure.... He is ready to lead our country on Day One.”
Later Thursday, Biden attended a fundraising reception in Irvine hosted by former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Ambassador James Costos and Reps. Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach and Lou Correa of Santa Ana. Also on Friday, Biden is raising money at a luncheon in Hancock Park.
Garcetti, who was a California co-chair of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, has long-standing ties with Biden. In 2015, Biden dined with Garcetti at Getty House, the mayor’s official residence, after the two participated in a Los Angeles climate change summit. In 2014, Biden joined Garcetti in promoting an increase in the city’s minimum wage.
“Democrats are blessed to have such an extraordinary field of candidates,” Garcetti said in a statement Thursday, “but I will never forget what Joe Biden has done for my city and our nation.”
Biden released a statement calling Garcetti “one of the best mayors in this country who has done incredibly innovative things to improve the lives” of city residents. The mayor will serve as a national co-chair of Biden’s campaign.