President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as ambassador to India, the White House said Friday, selecting a high-profile ally to serve in one of the most difficult diplomatic posts.
Garcetti, if confirmed, would be dispatched to India as it has been overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
The White House also announced Friday that Biden is nominating Democratic fundraiser Denise Bauer to serve as ambassador to Monaco, career foreign service officer Peter Haas to serve as ambassador to Bangladesh and former Obama-era national security aide Bernadette Meehan to serve as ambassador to Chile.
Garcetti, who considered a 2020 White House bid and later became part of Biden’s inner circle, emerged as a widely discussed possibility to join Biden’s Cabinet last year. But he took himself out of the running, saying the raging coronavirus crisis made it impossible for him to step away.
The two-term mayor would leave LA with an uneven record. He has been credited with continuing a transit buildup in a city choked with traffic, establishing tougher earthquake safety standards for thousands of buildings and steering the city though the deadly pandemic as it became a hot spot for infections. Cases have fallen steeply in the city and some restrictions have been rolled back, consistent with the trajectory in the state.
But Garcetti was overmatched by a crisis of homelessness that became a national embarrassment despite the massive jump in government spending to fight it. Many streets and sidewalks remain cratered and crumbling, despite his early pledge to make fixing them a cornerstone of his administration.
A lawsuit alleges that a former top staffer sexually harassed one of the mayor’s police bodyguards while Garcetti ignored it or laughed it off. The mayor denies the claims. One of his former deputy mayors was also indicted on corruption charges in an ongoing federal investigation at City Hall. And as is the case in many large cities, the crime rate in LA is spiking.
In picking Garcetti, Biden is rewarding a loyalist who was one of his national campaign co-chairs, who served on the committee that vetted his pool of vice presidential contenders and who served as one of several co-chairs for Biden’s inaugural committee.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed reporting.