At a time when one yellow-haired, Twitter-happy personality dominates American discourse, it’s easy to forget how much political energy—and important new thinking—emanates not from the nation’s capital but from city hall. We surveyed dozens of national and local political junkies, and came up with 11 leaders who are compelling for the fights they are waging, their personal backstories and how they are transforming their cities, often without Washington. Plus: Seven more to watch.
Back in 1984, when he was mayor of San Antonio and a rising star in the Democratic Party, Henry Cisneros got a final-round interview to be Walter Mondale’s presidential running mate. Mondale decided against it: It was a little too much for a local official to make the leap right onto the national stage.
It’s early still, but many top Democrats have started assuming Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will skip that step entirely and run for president himself in 2020. Garcetti has helped fan that speculation, already talking to strategists and big donors about the prospect. And it helps that, as cities step up their resistance to President Donald Trump, Garcetti has been able to jump into the national debate on issues like immigration, health care and infrastructure.
“My main job, and my overwhelming job, starts with my family, my street, my neighborhood and my city,” Garcetti told Politico’s Off Message podcast in May. “But I’m playing too much defense in my backyard to not get involved in the national discussion.”
If Garcetti runs for president, he wouldn’t just make history as a rare sitting mayor to do so. He also has the potential to be the first Hispanic and the first Jewish president. Garcetti is the 46-year-old grandson of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, and the son of a former L.A. district attorney—Gil Garcetti, of O.J. Simpson trial fame—and a mother whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. The mayor can order his bagel and lox, which he loves, in fluent Spanish. He was also a Rhodes Scholar and a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, and likes to tell stories about the time in high school when he traveled to Ethiopia to deliver medical supplies.
As mayor, Garcetti has successfully pushed for tax increases to fund a mass transit plan and more housing for the homeless, and he won a second term this year with 81 percent of the vote. His big project over the next few months is landing the Olympic Games in 2024 or 2028. The choice is expected in September, and Garcetti is putting off any decision about his political future until after that. There’s an open governor’s race in California next year, but people close to Garcetti don’t think that’s where his heart is, especially if he can go straight to a White House run. There’s also the chance of an open Senate seat if Dianne Feinstein retires, but that job doesn’t seem to fit Garcetti’s personality or his experience being the man in charge.
Read more at Politico.