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'A Lot Of Jockeying': What Happens Now That Garcetti Has Been Nominated As Ambassador To India?

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Mayor Eric Garcetti's expected departure after being nominated as ambassador to India has launched a political scramble to figure out who will take his place.

"There's going to be a lot of jockeying in City Hall right now," Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said.

It's the first time in a century that a Los Angeles mayor will leave before finishing their term, though most experts agree that it's unlikely the city will hold a special election to fill the seat.

Instead, they predict the City Council will select someone to serve the remainder of Garcetti's term. And while the person selected does not have to be a member of the council, the choice could still have major implications on next year's election.

Among the already declared and probable candidates are Councilman Joe Buscaino, City Attorney Mike Feuer, developer Rick Caruso, former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Buetner and Council President Nury Martinez.

"One of the things I think the City Council will be looking at is to try not to make it look like they're throwing the next mayoral race towards one of the candidates," Levinson said. "Now, I could be wrong, but I think the City Council will know there will be outcry if it looks like they are essentially choosing an heir apparent."

Former State Senator Kevin De León or former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have also been mentioned as outside alternatives to hold the line.

Whoever ends up serving the remainder of Garcetti's term, some feel the timing could not be worse.

"I'm very critical of the mayor because he made a promise," Luis Alvarado, a political strategist, said. "He took an oath, he asked Angelenos to step up and stand with him. And now that we need him the most, he's bailing out for a cushy job as an ambassador."

Outrage over homeless encampments is at a fever pitch and some believe Garcetti's immediate legacy will be determined by how successful the next mayor is in addressing those challenges.

One expert said that had this announcement come a few weeks earlier as Los Angeles was opening up after COVID, Garcetti's legacy would have been in a stronger position.

"In fact, if his mayoralty had ended just as L.A. was coming out of that crisis and he hadn't faced the challenges of the homelessness crisis, he'd probably be remembered positively for that," Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said.

Until an interim mayor is chosen, Martinez will serve in the role. She released a statement Friday that said, in part:

"The city is designed to adapt and sustain change and we will press on, laser focused on delivering on our promise to rebuild a more resilient Los Angeles."

And while Garcetti said in a statement that he was happy to accept the nomination, it could be weeks or even months before the U.S. Senate takes up the appointment, giving the City Council time to make its selection.

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