Can Mayors Be Presidential?


There’s some speculation that mayors might seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Those mentioned include Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.

After his keynote speech in 2012, there were similar conversations about San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. The consensus was that he would have to win statewide office first, although that’s a tall order for Democrat in Texas. San Antonio’s population of 1,359,758 exceeded that of many states, so the mayor has many of the same concerns as Governors. The population was in excess of Vermont- whose former Governor had a credible bid for the White House in 2004, Alaska- whose former Governor was the Republican nominee for Vice-President in 2008 and Delaware- where Vice-President Joe Biden served six terms as Senator. It’s also worth nothing that Paul Ryan was a Congressman, while Dick Cheney was the at-large Congressman from Wyoming, before he became a cabinet member. It seemed a bit hypocritical for fans of Howard Dean or Sarah Palin to suggest that Julian Castro would have needed to govern Texas before he’s presidential timber. Granted, the discussion was slightly complicated by the particular duties of a San Antonio mayor, considered a part-time job with less power than the City Manager.

Castro served for a few years as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, although it seems he wasn’t seriously considered a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton. There was only one reference to him in Amie Parnes and Jonathan Langley’s Shattered, and that was as a campaign surrogate during the primaries.

Rahm Emanuel’s been said to be eyeing a bid for the White House, although his plan is to do so after serving as Governor of Illinois. A prominent Illinois Democrat has a good chance of winning the General Election, but I’m not sure how necessary statewide office will be. He’s served in two presidential administrations, as well as congressional leadership. He obviously had other issues.

There was once speculation about former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villargosa. His main problem would be his chaotic family life, rather than political experience. He led a legislative body in California, before he became mayor of a city more populated than Connecticut or Iowa.

There are a few ways of considering the question of whether being mayor is sufficient preparation for the White House. The level of involvement in city government may be different from city to city meaning that one mayor may not have the sufficient experience but another might. While I may conclude that being mayor can be enough, that’s not going to change the mind of voters who think Governor sounds better, even if they’re comparing the Governor of Montana (apparently laying the groundwork for a 2020 run) to the Mayor of Los Angeles, with a population several times greater.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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