Last night on Facebook, Mayor Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, updated his profile photo [this one, left] and included a sly comment: "Hmmm...I feel like this pic makes me look like I'm running for office. Perhaps I should change it ... ;)" The wink was the giveaway, apparently. Today Szabo, 36, let it be known that he has submitted his resignation to the mayor and will join the crowded race for the open City Council seat in the 13th district. That's the district, centered on Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park, where Eric Garcetti is in his final year due to term limits. Szabo's entry make 13 candidates, but as David Zahniser's story for the LA Times points out, there may be more yet to come.
When he got into politics more than a decade ago, Szabo was a registered Republican working for a Republican mayor -– Richard Riordan. In recent years, he re-registered as a Democrat and became closely aligned with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which viewed him as a check on the power of City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who had advised Villaraigosa to use layoffs and employee concessions to balance the books....
Council members can serve up to a dozen years under term limits and the last time the 13th District had an election without an incumbent was 2001. As a result, Garcetti's departure has created a "pent up demand" among ambitious political types, said Raphael Sonenshein, political science professor at Cal State L.A.
Sonenshein said the large pool of candidates could encourage even more ambitious would-be politicians to jump in. With such a crowded field, any candidate will need only a fraction of votes to reach the runoff election, when the top two vote-getters square off.
"The more candidates you have, the more reason there is to run," he said.
After Riordan, Szabo worked for then-City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and was a spokesman for Bob Hertzberg in the 2005 mayoral campaign. He joined the Villaraigosa press office in 2006 and in 2009 moved over to a senior policy position. Szabo, who tweets here but not very much, has been talking about running since at least January.