Could Antonio Villaraigosa return to mayor?

The Biden administration has yet to announce whether it will appoint Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as U.S. ambassador to India. But the maneuvers to fill his seat are already underway.

One of the prospects that generated the buzz for mayor is former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who held the post from 2005 to 2013 before reaching the limits of his term. But a question hovered over that idea: would he be allowed to come back under city rules?

One political candidate argues he would – even though the City Charter limits mayors to two terms – and she wants City Atty. Mike Feuer to weigh in on the idea.

Marina A. Torres, a federal prosecutor running for the post of city prosecutor, argued that Villaraigosa was nonetheless eligible based on her reading of the charter.

In his letter to Feuer, Torres also provided a copy of a legal note from Nossaman LLP stating that a person who had served two terms as mayor could still be legally appointed for the remainder of Garcetti’s term.

Although mayors are limited to two terms, the charter excludes from this limit “any unexpired term for which a person is elected or appointed if the remainder of the term is less than half of the full term,” wrote lawyer Amber. Maltbie. .

The Times reported that Garcetti would likely be appointed U.S. Ambassador to India by President Biden, according to a person familiar with the verification process. But it is not known when the choice will be officially announced.

Torres’ request, sent on Friday, is a sign of behind-the-scenes discussions about the acting position.

Villaraigosa could be an attractive choice for council members who are reluctant to choose an interim mayor who could use this role as a springboard for the permanent position. For example, if board chair Nury Martinez was named interim mayor, she could continue with her own mayoral campaign.

Martinez said she is seriously considering running for mayor. Feuer and city councilor Joe Buscaino have already entered the 2022 mayoral race, and at least three other council members are considering running.

Torres, who is running to succeed Feuer, works with the same political consulting firm as Buscaino. She said the idea that Buscaino or any other candidate could benefit from hiring Villaraigosa is “irrelevant”.

Torres said she wrote the letter because she was asked if she thought Villaraigosa was eligible. The former mayor, she said, is “one of the very few political leaders with the experience to lead Los Angeles during this critical time.”

“I was like, ‘It’s time for the current municipal lawyer to speak up and give a legal opinion,” she said. “It’s on people’s minds right now. “

Villaraigosa, joined on Friday, said the possibility of him being chosen was speculation, adding that he believes in public service.

“I was born and raised here. I love this city. And if I was called, I would be honored, ”he said.

During his tenure as mayor, Villaraigosa expanded the size of the LAPD, tackled the budget crisis sparked by the 2008 recession, and mingled with the teachers’ union for control of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Torres also praised him for the expansion of public transport.

He is currently Co-Chair of Mercury Public Affairs, a public strategy and lobbying firm with clients who deal with City Hall.

Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said it would be “premature” to comment on Villaraigosa’s eligibility for interim mayor. “We will give appropriate advice when the time comes,” he said.

Another name in the mix is ​​City Councilor Paul Krekorian, who has been at City Hall since 2009. When asked this week if he is considering the post of acting mayor, he also declined to speculate.

“Who knows what the future may hold for each of us? ” he said. “But I am ready to serve the city in any way I can to serve it.”

If Garcetti leaves before the end of his term, city council has the power to formally appoint an interim mayor or call a special election to choose a replacement to complete his term. Until an interim mayor is appointed or elected, Martinez would serve as interim mayor.

Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc said neither his office nor the campaign had sought legal advice on Villaraigosa. A representative for Martinez declined to weigh in on the prospects for a Villaraigosa appointment.

“Whatever maneuver someone can take, there is no vacant post,” said Roy Behr, Martinez’s political strategist. “And so there is really nothing for us to comment on.”

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