A Commentary on the Race for Mayor of Los Angeles

On May 21st, the second largest city in the nation, and my home town, will be voting for a new Mayor. The two candidates are City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Greuel is the self-made, grassroots, powerful go-getter with boundless energy and fresh ideas from the historically underrepresented San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. From LAUSD to UCLA to Mayor Tom Bradley’s office to the Clinton administration to City Council and now City Controller, she has proven herself to be a dedicated, intelligent, and sincere public servant with a keen eye for making sure government runs as efficiently as possible – a rare quality in a politician.

L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel
L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel

Garcetti is the polished son of a politician and beloved Los Angeles District Attorney. All the predigree in the world – Ivy League, Rhodes Scholar, USC Professor, esteemed politician – but with a twist: some real ideas and humility to boot. His early support of then little known Senator Obama and his transformation of the Eastside of Los Angeles as well as his unique brand of coalition building in the City Council are glimpses into the kind of visionary leader he can be.



They are both progressive Democrats who support unions, neighborhood empowerment, strengthened public education, and environmental conscientiousness. They are both pro-business and fiscally more restrained than their liberal label would indicate. They are both temperate, balanced, measured, and deliberate in decision making – in their own distinct ways.

They are both truly competent and prudent choices for Mayor.

What a lucky city we must be to have two quality, uncontroversial candidates in the running to lead our city forward. Their staffs must be small. Their staunch supporters must be not used to such a quiet, civil campaign. The best way to get the vote out in this most serendipitous of scenarios must be to promote each candidate on their individual merits and hit the positive campaign trail hard.

Well, that’s not quite enough, I mean there must be a way to stand apart as the choice given how much overlap there is in policy. But that’s served on a silver platter as well: in terms of policy implementation, leadership style, and governance philosophies these two are quite different. Garcetii is an idealist who sometimes has a difficult time putting on the pragmatist’s hat. Greuel is a meticulous pragmatist who sometimes struggles to articulate a loftier vision of what could be. These legislative approaches to complex problems are distinct and both belie distinct impacts for the issues facing this city in the coming years – specifically in the areas of education, economic growth, and public education.

So, that solves it then, this flourishing metropolitan will finally get to have a legitimate, nuanced, and largely unsullied, conversation on the issues; because god knows, in this race of competant equals there is no room for the negative campaigning we’re all so accustomed to in this three ring circus of a farce that we’re all beginning to recognize as our buckling democracy. And the true beauty of it all? The candidates themselves and their staff will drive this rewarding discourse, and they will both make Los Angeles a better, more informed city, weeks before either of them takes that first seat in the Mayor’s chair at City Hall.

I am pumped. Or I was, anyhow.

For all the smiles and fist-bumping between these two agreeable and intelligent candidates, this race has been wrought with more negative campaigning than any lay-voter could have ever expected.


I’m getting married. It’s taken forever. Poor thing has put up with me for the better part of a decade. I loved her a few weeks in, I knew that. It was jarring and discomforting. And yet, it’s still taken an eternity to make big steps.


Part of the reason for this is because I am a giant commitaphobe big believer in the practice of analyzing the process of something’s development in order to truly assess the true value of the thing itself. For example, if a corporation pays it’s employees fairly, uses best practices to manufacture it’s product, attempts to showcase and price the product’s value fairly, and stays loyal to it’s customers, then I feel confident in getting what they’re making. But if these factors aren’t up to snuff, then no amount of discounts and advertising will make me want to buy what they’re selling.

My fiancee has been great throughout our relationship through each facet. As a best friend, girlfriend, live-in partner, and now fiancee. I now have no doubt she won’t be just as great as a wife and mother.

In this race, I’ve had very little time and only two things to base these candidates off of: their careers and their campaigns. Both of their careers are impressive. This initial analysis is what had me so excited. But their campaign tactics belie characteristics that I do not fully trust and respect in one who I vote to lead me, my family, friends, and neighbors. I want to trust one of you and I want to vote, but this trust and vote must be earned.

I’m not getting into a couple who’s been together for 5 years too long and now almost comes to blows over who’s taking out the trash today type of argument in this article. I refuse to play along in outlining who did what to whom first, and what types of retaliations are appropriate or necessary and which are not.

What I will do is provide a brief summary of offenses so far: targeted attack websites from both candidates against the opponent with a whole host of juvenile and fairly unfounded statements, accusations of oil investments, an army of keyboard warriors who scour the internet – from Facebook to the most obscure political blogs – itching for a place to set down that soapbox and lob mortar and stones from inside the glass house, and attempting to use the DWP as a lightning rod (yes, the Department of Water and Power – I know, we’re really through the looking glass here people).

Some of the attacks are based in fact, some are not. Some sound like the slightly vocabularily elevated insults one would hear from a 5th grader at recess. Some are just mean. Some are personal. And some are of that moldy kitchen sink variety. Very few of them have any place in this campaign.

Given this depressing state of affairs, I must humbly ask a favor of Councilman Garcetti and Controller Greuel – and hopefully everyone who works for and supports both:

For these final 2 weeks, please try to run largely positive, informative campaigns.

I’m not so naive so as to not understand the value of hitting your opponents when they truly deserve it, but for the sake of civility, if nothing else, vie for this seat by promoting yourselves on individual merits – of which you both have in abundance.

This race is between two great, and amazingly similar, candidates for one of the most directly impactful positions in politics. Encourage your staffers and supporters to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Encourage for the discourse to go deeper. Discourage toxicity and pettiness. Lead as you have throughout your careers. Lead as citizens so that we may believe that you can lead as Mayor. Guide this city, by example and not just by consequential calculus.

I understand the potential objections to this approach. Allow me to address them:


1) I am confident that I am the best person for the job and so the ends must certainly justify the means.


It is by this power-hungry rationale that great people are  dictated to by the demons of their lesser nature – and so we see as such now. A great friend and influential political voice in the city, in reference to this very race, said the other day, “We’ve already lost, and we don’t even recognize it.”

Right now, you are two of the most visible and influential politicians in Los Angeles. Maintaining business as usual politics, promoting the status quo, and teaching a generation of up and coming politicos around you that this is the way to win, is wrong. But the converse is also true. The impact of both of you, right now, putting public interest and aggregate good above pure victory would create more buzz and interest, do more good, and inspire your constituents more than either of you could imagine.

In doing so you could solve the great paradox of political ambition: how does one reconcile the desire for the power to do good with the things they must do to attain that power? Simply do the good you would do with power while vying for it, and put faith in those you would seek to govern for.


2) What if my opponent wins through status quo political strategy while I take the high road? Wouldn’t my valiant intentions be for naught?

No, it wouldn’t. This argument held a lot more water in the Tammany Hall eras of politics – when democracy could be wielded as a tool for tyranny and production of knowledge was centralized and largely isolated from the ordinary folks. In those times, I could be swayed by the argument that only the strong survive and create legislation while the honorable perish and are silenced and forgotten. It would still be wrong, but I could at least see the utility in it.

But today, the opposite is true. The world is just looking for an extraordinary story from any corner of the world. Random news interviews from cities in the middle of nowhere gain more views in 24 hours than any campaign ad ever could. The most popular news outlets scroll inspirational and humorous stories from every inch of the globe on an hourly basis.

Refusing to stoop to an onslaught of negativity is a win-win scenario. Either your opponent, not wanting to look petty and foolish, follows suit and you can create a primer on how to run a campaign rooted in depth and substance for us all to follow; or your opponent follows the Machiavellian playbook while you turn the other cheek.

Either way, you win. I have a tough time believing that a candidate, or a pair of candidates, in this virulent era of political electioneering, making the risky and bold choice to forgo antagonistic tactics would go unnoticed by the media or the electorate.


3) People actually vote based on petty negativity and not on substance.

The popular narrative here is that scandal-pedaling and analysis of body-language/campaign cash flow is what moves the needle. This constant power-analysis of who’s weak, who’s strong, who is winning, who is losing, and seeing these highly visible people falter and crumble. The narrative of the emotive and unintelligent lay-voter is that they will tune out to policy discussions and perk up to vote and act when prompted by faction-based warfare and negativity.

To this I would post this question: Do people make political decisions based on inane things like body language because they’re just not “smart enough” or because the shin-deep shallowness of political campaigns appeal to the lowest common denominator and don’t give the voter a chance to show just how intelligent and engaged they can be if they’re given the opportunity to truly know how important these decisions are? I choose to believe the latter. And as dedicated public servants, I think you would believe to choose the same.


I’ve interacted with both of you. I’ve spoken to you on the phone and seen you play some mean baseball. You’re both genuine inspirations to this young citizen who strives to live in a better city. Before this campaign hit the fan in full, I had been singing both of your praises to anyone who would listen and I was incredibly eager to participate and make a very tough decision. But I have been detached and disinterested as I’ve seen the wheels churn on and come off of this race.

I am a student, a minority, a home-owner, a soon to be husband, a brother, a son, a working tax-paying citizen, and a Millennial.

I enjoy politics but I appreciate it’s ability to facilitate progress more than it’s competitive underpinnings.

I am who will be affected by your decisions and I am the one shaped by your example.

Please act accordingly.

Best of luck to you both.