LAS VEGAS (AP) — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is taking his argument on the road, but he doesn’t want you to assume he’s steering himself toward the White House.
At least not yet.
“I have a job I love,” Garcetti said, as he makes the rounds at the Democratic National Committee’s annual meeting in Nevada on Saturday. But the 46-year-old mayor adds that he wants Democrats to have “a wide open field” in 2020, and he argues that the party needs “new energy” and “a generational moment” at all levels if it hopes to counter President Donald Trump.
After winning an easy second term this year, Garcetti is an increasingly visible figure nationally, traveling to raise money and campaign for other Democrats. His name already is familiar to many Americans because his father, Gil, led the Los Angeles prosecutor’s office during the O.J. Simpson trial.
Garcetti was a councilman for 12 years before being elected mayor for the first time in 2013.
Aside from being the first Jewish nominee for the White House, a presidential bid by Garcetti would run against history for other reasons: no sitting mayor has won the presidency or even claimed a major party nomination. But Garcetti, the son of a Jewish mother and Italian-Mexican father, and several other Democrats of his generation are eyeing their prospects on the heels of voters electing Barack Obama, four years removed from the Illinois State Senate, and Donald Trump, who never held political office at all.
Garcetti argues that frustrated voters should, perhaps, look to mayors, because they have to make government work. “We will represent everybody and we will work with anybody,” he said.
The mayor’s recent circuit includes stops in the first presidential primary state of New Hampshire and the general election battleground of Wisconsin. He has upcoming plans to visit South Carolina, which hosts the South’s first presidential primary.
At each stop, he’s urging Democrats to take an aggressive approach to Trump and the Republican Congress. “We have a better platform, a better position. We fight for the underdog,” Garcetti told The Associated Press, “and somehow Donald Trump convinced them he’s for the underdog.”
The necessary response, Garcetti said, is for elected Democrats to use their power to get things done. He pointed to his city’s $120 billion infrastructure plan even as Congress struggles to agree on a national infrastructure overhaul and City Hall’s investment in community college tuition grants. Garcetti also highlighted his work to convince more than 300 municipalities to commit to the principles of the Paris climate accords, even after Trump announced he was nixing US participation in the deal.
“Keep playing offense and stop just crying on defense,” Garcetti said of his philosophy.
The mayor doesn’t fit neatly into the ongoing tussle between liberal grassroots and the Democratic establishmenta. He backed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the 2016 nominating fight, but he’s among the many rising Democratic stars to align with Sanders’ call for universal government health insurance.
“I’m a single-payer guy,” Garcetti said flatly.
The notion of a lingering party split after the 2016 primaries is overdone, Garcetti said, arguing that “the loudest voices” aren’t always “the most representative.” He also defended California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is drawing a challenge that is exciting some liberal grassroots activists, against charges that she isn’t liberal enough for California.
“I don’t buy this meme that she’s some moderate,” Garcetti said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.