Austin Beutner, the former L.A. jobs czar, has dropped out of the race for mayor in 2013, saying he needs to “be engaged with my family in a way which is at odds with the demands of a campaign.”
Beutner got out to an early start last year, with the backing of former Mayor Richard Riordan. But he struggled to raise money, and spent $110,000 more than he raised in the second half of 2011.
A first-time candidate, Beutner never got comfortable as a politician. He had a soft-spoken manner, and seemed unwilling to commit to the exhausting demands of running for office. A virtual unknown, Beutner would have had to spend heavily to introduce himself to voters.
His departure seems to work in favor of Controller Wendy Greuel.
Had Beutner stayed in the race, he would likely have picked up support from Republicans and pro-business voters. That support seems more likely to go to Greuel, who represented the San Fernando Valley on the L.A. City Council, than to Councilman Eric Garcetti, the other frontrunner in the race.
Beutner, a former private equity executive, pitched himself as a problem solver, and was at his best when breaking down complex and seemingly intractable governmental problems. His best moment as a candidate came when he released an interactive map that displayed fire response times throughout the city, which drew substantial web traffic.
But he was not as well versed in some of the community political dynamics that make certain issues so intractable. In a campaign speech earlier this year, he faulted the City Council for failing to privatize the city's parking lots — without acknowledging the outcry from local businesses that made that deal politically difficult. He made similar remarks about the stalled BNSF intermodal facility at the Port of Los Angeles, again without saying how he would navigate around local opposition.
In his statement, Beutner said he would reimburse his donors. His exit leaves only four candidates of any significance in the race: Garcetti, Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry and former radio host Kevin James. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has not said whether he intends to run.
Update: And the race for Beutner's endorsement is on. Wendy Greuel is first out of the gate with a flattering statement:
“I want to thank Austin Beutner for his service to our city as First Deputy Mayor and for raising many significant issues as a candidate for Mayor. Austin was a leading voice for more focus on economic development and job growth, helping streamline the permit process and having a lasting impact on how LA attracts and retains businesses. He helped shine a light on the city bureaucracy, uncovering problems and calling for greater transparency. Austin was willing to speak out when he saw waste and inefficiency in government, no matter whose feathers might be ruffled. I wish Austin the best as he moves on to other pursuits. I know he will continue to make important contributions to LA in the years to come.”
Update 2: And here's Eric Garcetti's less verbose, but equally effusive, statement:
“Through his nonprofit work, his public service and his candidacy, Austin has elevated the debate around jobs, reform and the need to move every Los Angeles community forward. I know he will continue to contribute a strong voice to the civic discussion and I wish him and his family the best.”