Garcetti’s Exit Could Give L.A. the Female Mayor it Needs

It’s long past time for L.A. to have a female mayor, but patriarchal delusions of grandeur have taken center stage in an effort to keep a woman out of the mayor’s office.

Any day now President Joe Biden is expected to relieve Angelenos of their mayor ahead of his highly anticipated 2022 scheduled departure.  Biden is projected to announce he is nominating Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be his ambassador to India. And even though the formal announcement hasn’t even been made yet, there’s already a line of men with measuring tape in hand ready to measure the drapes in the mayor’s office. 

The rules are clear. If Garcetti leaves office early, the city council would have power under the City Charter to appoint an interim replacement to serve out the remainder of his term. The council could opt to call a special election and put it on the same ballot as the upcoming recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.  But do we really want to go through electing someone just to have to turn around and do it again in less than a year?

Until that decision is made, the City Charter calls for the council president to serve as acting mayor.  The problem with that is that our current council president is a woman and at least three members of the council and the current city attorney–all male–have plans to run for mayor and the last thing they want to see is a woman of color making history as the interim or acting mayor of Los Angeles.  

Would be mayoral candidates
De León, Ridley-Thomas, Feuer, and Buscaino

One declared candidate for mayor doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell after he spent his tenure prosecuting the homeless and protestors while covering up the LAPD’s misconduct and hiding body camera footage at the taxpayer’s expense. And speaking of the LAPD, one candidate is a former cop and they aren’t too popular these days. In the case of at least two expected candidates, the ink from the clerk’s signature certifying their election results from their council race has barely dried forcing them to run on the downlow for now–codeword for fundraise.  Which really begs the question–why did they run for council in the first place if they knew the following year they were going to abandon their district to campaign for mayor? I’ll tell you why. So that they could claim to hold some official office as they hit the campaign trail for mayor because there’s still enough of the electorate, albeit on the older end, that trick still actually works on.

first female mayor?
Council President Nury Martinez

The behind-the-scenes political wheeling-and-dealing and colluding that’s probably taking place right now in some smoke-filled room is all about how to keep council president Nury Martinez from ascending into the mayorship. The men on the council angling to run for mayor, and their allies, want to find someone who will promise not to run for mayor to appoint as the interim mayor.  Someone who isn’t a threat to their respective candidacies.

They know the potential ramifications of the first woman of color council president becoming interim or acting mayor in 2021 in a city that prides itself on being progressive and forward thinking but has never actually elected a female mayor. 

In 2013, we had the opportunity to elect Councilwoman Jan Perry or Controller Wendy Greuel as the first female mayor of L.A. and instead opted for Garcetti. I know, hindsight is 20/20. It’s hard to believe one of the most liberal cities in America–if not the most liberal–has never once elected a woman and only once elected a Black person to take the helm. 

And right when we’re on the cusp of making herstory by having the city’s first woman of color council president serve as acting mayor, there’s a coordinated effort to keep her out of the mayor’s office in hopes that it doesn’t become her permanent home for the next 9 and a half years–the rest of Garcetti’s term plus two four-year terms.

I’m having flashbacks of actress Uzo Adub’s award-winning performance as Shirley Chisolm in “Mrs. America,” as she fought to get the support that should have already been there for her presidential campaign from the women’s movement and Black politicians.

Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisolm

Martinez is kinda already running the city.  As someone who served as a Special Assistant to the previous council president Herb Wesson–the first Black council president–I can tell you that she is already doing the job without the title, most council presidents do.  

The decision should be hers no matter what she decides to do in the future.  If two men who just got sworn into office to serve on the city council can turn around not even a year later and start angling for the mayor’s race then Nury Martinez can serve as interim or acting mayor and run for mayor if she so chooses to.  I guarantee you if Wesson was the current council president we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

This is a perfect example of how politics makes strange bedfellows. Would-be mayoral candidates are in cahoots with each other and in agreement on this one issue–Martinez cannot become interim or acting mayor.  To keep the status quo, city hall’s patriarchy is working together like never before to make sure that the odds remain ever in their favor.

Don’t smash the patriarchal system all around city hall. Run up the steps, bust inside, and dismantle it office by office.

It’s time L.A. has a female interim, acting and elected mayor.

Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick is a journalist and political strategist who has worked at all levels of government including as a Special Assistant to retired Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Learn more about her and her work here.