Who is Eric Garcetti?

May 22, 2013

Los Angeles will have a new mayor beginning July 1. His name is Eric Garcetti, the city councilman who won a Tuesday runoff and made some history. He'll become the city's first elected Jewish mayor and its youngest in more than a century when he's sworn in.


Garcetti at his victory rally. (Chris Carlson /AP)

So, just who is Garcetti?

In short, an academic-turned politician with ties to President Obama whose youth and power in the nation's second most populous city will make him a Democrat to watch in the coming years.

The 42-year-old mayor-elect is a Southern California native who studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. According to his campaign biography, Garcetti grew up in the San Fernando Valley before traveling east to Columbia University in New York, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees.

Garcetti spent the early part of his career in education, but politics runs in his blood. He's the son of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti.

The mayor-elect was an early supporter of the president in the 2008 primary. The president stayed neutral in the mayoral race, but David Axelrod, a top former Obama adviser, stumped for Garcetti during the campaign. “I think it’s fair to say that the President of the United States could not have a better friend than Eric Garcetti,” Axelrod said at an event earlier this month.

The son of a Jewish mother and a father of Mexican and Italian descent, Garcetti has said he became religious in college.

“Weekends were both filled with bowls of menudo and lots of bagels,” Garcetti told the Jewish Journal in 2012. He added, “I think I have become more of a practicing Jew or observant later in life. I came to my faith in college.”

Academia, not politics, was Garcetti's first professional calling. He taught international affairs at both the University of Southern California and Occidental College.

Garcetti won a Hollywood-area seat on the city council in 2001. He was elected four times by his colleague to serve as council president. Here's what the Los Angeles Times wrote about his style of governance on the council:

As a councilman, the Spanish-speaking Garcetti prided himself on being a conciliator who listened to every voice at the table. That amiable profile helped him to be elected president of the 15-member council but also inspired charges that he could be too malleable, not always following through on promises.

Viewed as more liberal than his mayoral runoff opponent, fellow Democrat Wendy Greuel, Garcetti found himself on the opposite side of a robust coalition of public unions. Greuel had big-time support from labor, and Garcetti used the show of support to cast doubts in the campaign about whether she could stand up to the unions' interests if elected.

As mayor, Garcetti will have to confront tough budgetary outlook in which spending is anticipated to be greater than revenue.

A Navy reservist, Garcetti has a one-year-old daughter with his wife. He is "an avid jazz pianist and photographer," according to his campaign biography.

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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