All from successful, prosperous cities.
No mayor has ever sprung directly from City Hall to the White House.
But that historic streak stands to be tested in 2020, with at least three Democratic mayors mulling presidential campaigns: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
They’re exploiting a newfound opening for politicians at the municipal level, one enabled by broader economic and cultural forces, among them the rise of the Democratic Party’s diverse and ascendant Obama coalition.
“Cities are powerful forces now; they’re almost like city-states,” said Henry Cisneros, who was mayor of San Antonio when, in 1984, he was interviewed to be Walter Mondale’s presidential running mate. “While it is perfectly plausible that a governor, even of a small state, can run for president … why isn’t it plausible that a mayor of a major, global epicenter of power like New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or Seattle or Miami shouldn’t be plausible at the presidential level?”
In part, the opportunity for Democratic mayors is a product of the party’s failings elsewhere. With Democrats out of power in Washington and in many state capitals, large, heavily Democratic cities have become progressives’ power centers of last resort, with an increasingly diverse media landscape offering exposure to a previously anonymous class of politicians.
“At least before new media, it was less common for mayors to get national exposure,” Buttigieg said recently. But Buttigieg, who burst onto Democrats’ radar with his failed bid for Democratic National Committee chairman, has demonstrated that now, even the mayor of a small city can find a spark.
“It’s definitely a season for cities,” said Buttigieg, the mayor of a city of just more than 100,000 people. “And it’s definitely a season for mayors.”