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Report: Mayor Garcetti being considered for India ambassador post

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s name has surfaced again as a possible nominee for a position in the administration of President Biden, five months after he said he had turned down a federal post.

Garcetti is one of several candidates under consideration for the position of U.S. ambassador to India, the political news site Axios reported on Tuesday.

In December, the mayor said he had turned down an unspecified job with the Biden administration and would stay in Los Angeles to lead pandemic relief efforts. However, Garcetti hasn’t publicly ruled out leaving before his second term ends in December 2022.

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His spokesman Alex Comisar called the Axios report “speculative.”

“We aren’t going to engage in speculation. We’re 100% focused on ending the COVID pandemic and passing a justice budget for the city,” Comisar said Tuesday.

Comisar declined to comment when asked if Garcetti was being vetted by Biden’s team.

The mayor was an early supporter of Biden in the presidential race and served as a co-chair of his campaign committee.

Garcetti’s departure could set off a chain of political events in Los Angeles.

Under the City Charter, the City Council has the power to select someone to fill out the remainder of a mayor’s unfinished term. Who that would be is far from clear.

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Two elected officials — City Atty. Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino — are already running for Garcetti’s seat in the June 2022 primary election, but several others could jump in. Council members are unlikely to select anyone running for mayor to serve in an interim capacity.

Garcetti’s possible nomination to a Biden post last year sparked daily protests outside his home by members of Black Lives Matter and others. Activists are critical of the mayor over his handling of police shootings of unarmed Black men and his oversight of the city budget.

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said her first reaction to the news was: “Good.”

Abdullah said the group had opposed Garcetti gaining a position that would give him national influence over policy, but “an ambassador is not going to be setting policy.”

“We do think, though, that what he’s trying to build is foreign relations experience to make himself more qualified as he runs for higher office,” Abdullah said. “And any office he runs for where he would have influence over policy, we will try to block him.”

Garcetti has earned praise for pushing for the wearing of masks and leading the city’s COVID-19 vaccination and coronavirus testing efforts. But he’s faced criticism from restaurant owners and others for supporting the shutdown of some businesses.

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As COVID-19 case numbers have dropped and businesses have reopened, city leaders continue to grapple with a growing homelessness crisis. The city is facing potentially sweeping action by a federal judge over its handling of homelessness. At the same time, shootings are up almost 67% over the same period last year, and homicides are up more than 26%.

Garcetti is also facing accusations by a former bodyguard, who alleges in a lawsuit that he was sexually harassed by the mayor’s former advisor and that the mayor witnessed the behavior but did nothing to stop it.

Garcetti denies witnessing inappropriate behavior.

Times staff writers David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.

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