City Council President Nury Martinez is likely to take over as acting mayor of Los Angeles should Mayor Eric Garcetti be confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to India.
President Joe Biden nominated Garcetti to the post Friday, confirming rumors that have circulated for weeks. Garcetti, who has reached his term limit and cannot seek another four years as mayor, is scheduled to leave office in December 2022, but would vacate the position early if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The city charter assigns the City Council president, currently Martinez, to serve as acting mayor when the mayor is out of the state. If Garcetti leaves for the diplomatic post, Martinez would become acting mayor until an interim mayor is appointed by the council or a special election is held.
The council is unlikely to schedule a special election, however, since the mayoral primary is already set for June 2022.
“Mayor Garcetti has served the city of Los Angeles for more than two decades, eight of those as mayor,” Martinez said in a statement Friday. “From raising the minimum wage to managing the COVID-19 crisis, I have always been grateful for our partnership and I have no doubt he’ll do amazing things in this new role. 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.”
Rumors began in early May that Biden was considering Garcetti for the ambassadorship, but the mayor’s office initially said it was speculative and that the mayor was focused on guiding the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcetti served as national co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign.
Biden announced his choice of Garcetti Friday, along with nominations for the ambassadorships of Bangladesh, Chile and Monaco.
“Today, the president announced that I am his nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to India. I am honored to accept his nomination to serve in this role,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I love Los Angeles and will always be an Angeleno. I want you to know that every day I am your mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus, and determination.
“I have committed my life to service — as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant, and if confirmed, next as an ambassador. Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call. And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”
Garcetti, who is out of town this weekend and scheduled to return Monday, told KNX Newsradio on Friday that “I’ll still be here probably for some months, and I’m going to run through that tape of loving every single day that I’m honored to be your mayor.”
The White House’s announcement Friday cited Garcetti’s responsibilities overseeing the Western Hemisphere’s busiest container port, the Port of Los Angeles; the largest municipal utility in the country, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; one of the busiest airports, Los Angeles International Airport; and his time as chair of the second-busiest transit agency, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The White House also credited Garcetti with leading the city’s successful bid to host the 2028 Olympics and co-founding Climate Mayors, a coalition of 400 U.S. mayors that adopted the Paris Climate agreement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Garcetti “is an excellent choice to serve as U.S. ambassador to India. The importance of India to the global economy and national security will only continue to grow over the coming years, and having a steady hand to guide our relationship with that nation is vital.”
Garcetti — who has a degree in international affairs from Columbia University and studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University — has visited India several times, and speaks some Hindi and Urdu.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he called India “the largest democracy in the world, soon to be the most populous country in the world, one of the top handful of superpowers in the world.”
Previous U.S. ambassadors to India have included former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-NY, former Ohio Senator and U.S. Attorney General William Saxbe, former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste, former New York Sen. Kenneth Keating, former Connecticut Gov. Chester Bowles and former USC President John Hubbard.
The nomination comes amid the city’s exploding homeless population and a lawsuit against the city and county by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, an association of downtown residents, homeless individuals and property owners seeking to compel local governments to find shelter for the thousands of people camping on city sidewalks. The city and county are seeking to vacate a judge’s order requiring officials to offer shelter to every homeless person on Skid Row by Oct. 18.
The nomination also comes amid accusations of misconduct and a mafia-like culture of silence within the mayor’s office, which Garcetti claims he hasn’t witnessed. His former adviser, Rick Jacobs, has been accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles Police Department officer.
The officer claims Garcetti witnessed the misconduct but turned a blind eye to it. Garcetti has denied the allegation.
In his interview Friday on KNX, Garcetti said he wasn’t concerned about the reports affecting his confirmation process.
“I have high expectations and standards for everybody who works for me and around me and a long history of having zero tolerance for any sort of harassment or hostile workplace, so I’m confident and I appreciate the confidence from the president and from the White House,” he said.
Last month, Garcetti asked his chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, to step away from her management duties in response to revelations by the Los Angeles Times that she posted disparaging remarks in a private Facebook group about labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. The Times also reported that Guerrero posted suggested comments about Director of Planning Vince Bertoni, who was hired by Garcetti in 2016.