Updated below. After agonizing about it for much of his life, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy has decided not to run for mayor of Los Angeles.
Yaroslavksy, who has been in public office since winning a City Council seat at 26, announced his decision this morning on his blog.
While I have never been a supporter of term limits, I do believe that four decades is long enough for any citizen to hold elective office, especially in an executive capacity.
This news will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief by Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, the two front-runners in the March 2013 election.
Public and private polls showed that Yaroslavsky would have been in the top tier of candidates. Some showed him within the margin of error of Garcetti and Greuel, both of whom have been in the race for a year.
Yaroslavsky has been thinking about running for mayor since the early 80s, but has never made it to the ballot. The closest he came was in 1989, when he launched a campaign to unseat Mayor Tom Bradley. He pulled the plug on that campaign three months before the vote, when polls showed that Bradley was unbeatable.
Yaroslavsky also thought about running in 1993 and 2001. Yaroslavsky is termed out of the Board of Supervisors in 2014, which many supporters believed would give him enough of an incentive to finally run for mayor. Instead, Yaroslavsky said he has decided to turn over the reins to a "new generation":
So I've made the decision to complete my current term on the board and then move on to the other things I've longed to do outside the political arena while I have plenty of productive years ahead of me. Simply put, it's time for a new generation of leaders to emerge and guide this region into the future.
More reaction to come.
Update, 9:59 a.m.: So who benefits? To the extent we can tell at this point, it seems like Greuel and Garcetti get a roughly equivalent boost. According to this poll, conducted last fall, taking Yaroslavsky out of the race boosts Greuel by 4 points and Garcetti by 3 points -- which leaves it as a dead heat.
"Zev over the years has built a tremendous base of supporters and is extremely popular in the Valley and with L.A. liberals," says Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, who has endorsed Greuel. "I think the liberals will all end up going with Eric, and the Valley folks will end up going with Wendy."
Update: 11:43 a.m.: Former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who has unofficially announced her bid for Yaroslavsky's supervisorial seat, had lunch with Yaroslavsky a few weeks ago. She said he seemed genuinely conflicted about the decision.
"I think he was very tempted," Kuehl said. "He has a lot of experience, and a lot of knowledge of public policy. You want to think, 'Maybe I owe it to my constituents.'... It seemed to me that day he thought of it primarily as something he should maybe consider but not that his heart really wanted to do. And when you run for office, it's so hard, your heart has to be in it."
Hope Warschaw, a longtime friend and supporter of Yaroslavsky's, said she expects him to stay involved even after his term is up at the Board of Supervisors.
"I think he's probably one of the most effective government officials we've ever had," Warschaw said. "Anyone elected to be the next mayor would be crazy not to use him in some way."
Warschaw said she would support Greuel, in part because, "I think we need a woman in there."
Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Yaroslavsky's old Westside district, would have been an enthusiastic Yaroslavsky supporter if he had run.
"I'm very disappointed," Koretz told the Weekly. "I think he would have been the right person at the right time."
Koretz said it was too soon for him to endorse one of the other candidates. He predicted that, "Most of his support will be divided up pretty equally between Wendy and Eric."
As per custom, Garcetti and Greuel (*and Jan Perry) have each issued statements praising Yaroslavsky.
"From his start as a young City Councilmember to his current service
as a distinguished statesman on the County Board of Supervisors, Zev
Yaroslavsky has always led with intellect, creativity and
determination. I have always admired his work to tackle our toughest
challenges -- like homelessness, transportation and making L.A. a more
livable city -- and it has been an honor to call him a colleague and
friend. I look forward to working with him over the next 27 months and
beyond, and I know Zev and Barbara will continue to contribute
generously to our community."
And here's Greuel:
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"Like Tom Bradley and Kenny Hahn, Zev Yaroslavsky has been and will continue to be an iconic and transformational leader for LA whose profound impact will be felt for generations. In my life I have been fortunate to work with all three of these public service giants. Zev's service has been remarkable. Whether it was protecting our oceans and beaches from offshore drilling, preserving open space, tackling homelessness or expanding and improving our transportation system, Zev has always put policy above politics to deliver results.
I am proud to have worked with Zev as his efforts to bring the Orange Line from the West Valley to the North Valley came to fruition. And I was proud to stand by him as we worked together to eliminate the DNA rape kit backlog and help rape survivors seek justice.
I look forward to seeking Zev's wise counsel and advice as he continues to serve Los Angeles on the Board of Supervisors and I look forward to partnering with him in the years to come as we both work to move Los Angeles forward."
.... and Jan Perry:
"Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has a long career in public service where he has consistently demonstrated strong leadership and worked very hard on behalf of the people of Los Angeles. I served with him on the development of the Exposition Light Rail, and worked to find common ground on addressing homelessness in our region. His legacy of service is a significant piece of our development as a region and will stand the test of time as to how continuity in public service yields the best results...
"Zev's announcement clarifies the Mayor's race and makes it clear that only one candidate has the record, strength, and conviction to lead on jobs and reforming Los Angeles and that candidate is Jan Perry.
First posted at 7:10 a.m.