So here's the deal… well-known, widely respected Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is the frontrunner of the 2013 Los Angeles mayoral race. Political pros think he'd win and do a solid job of fixing a broken city; wealthy liberal contributors would love to throw money at him; and nearly everyone acknowledges that he's smart as a whip and personable.
Here's the problem: Yaroslavsky still refuses to say if he's going to run for office.
As much as the popular supervisor apparently thinks he can announce whenever he wants, time is not on his side, and the race is already starting to pass him by. “There comes a time when it's too late for practical reasons,” says veteran political consultant Garry South. “The people and money are gone.”
It was nearly a year ago that L.A. Weekly reported that several very smart political observers deemed Yaroslavsky as the standout frontrunner for the 2013 mayoral election. Since then, all major candidates — such as L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, lawyer Kevin James, and wealthy investment banker Austin Beutner — have thrown their hats into the ring for Los Angeles' top political job.
Yaroslavsky? Well, his spokesman, Joel Bellman, says the supervisor is still “actively considering” a candidacy and “keeping his own counsel.” At the same time, Bellman tells us, the supervisor refuses to be “rushed by anyone's time clock.”
That's all fine and good, but South and UCLA School of Public Affairs Dean Frank Gilliam Jr. say Yaroslavsky is only making things harder for himself and better for everyone else.
“You absolutely need to declare a year before the election,” South, who worked three mayoral campaigns, tells the Weekly. “You can't do this in six or nine months. L.A. is too spread out with 4 million people. You need to cover a lot of territory. [Running for mayor] is too big a task.”
Gilliam points out that without Yaroslavsky in the race, he's giving Wendy Greuel, who our pundits gave a second place rating behind the front-running supervisor, more of an opportunity to connect with voters.
“The more time [Yaroslavsky] takes to announce,” says the UCLA dean, “the more it gives Wendy the room to make her case. He doesn't take away any of her air space.”
Gilliam also notes that Greuel has been making the most of Yaroslavsky's absence.
“She's been very active on the campaign trail, building up support. People see her as a viable candidate.”
At one point, wealthy contributors may have been waiting to see if the supervisor would announce before they forked over their cash to anyone else. But South says in his political circles there's a belief taking hold that Yaroslavsky is NOT going to run, so they're willing to give their big bucks to Garcetti and Greuel.
“I don't think [Yaroslavsky's indecision] is holding anyone back,” says South.
The 2013 mayoral primary is actually less than a year away, taking place on March 5. Time is clearly running out. Yaroslavsky spokesman Bellman says his boss will let everyone know if he's going to run or not. He just doesn't know when.
According to South, the supervisor needs to pull the trigger no later than this coming June. If we don't get the news by then, a lot of political observers are probably going to start calling Greuel, who could be the first female mayor of Los Angeles, the new frontrunner.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.