Explaining Southern California's economy

No investment-banker mayor for L.A.: Austin Beutner drops out

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Mark Sullivan/Getty Images for The Broad Stage

Austin Beutner on stage during the preview of The Broad Stage 2010-2011 schedule. The former investment banker and deputy mayor dropped out of the race for mayor of L.A. today.

Austin Beutner, the retired investment banker who was running for mayor of Los Angeles but who wasn't polling anywhere near other candidates or raising as much money, has dropped out of the race. Our new politics blogger, Alice Walton, has the lowdown. His stated explanation is that he wants to refocus on his family. This is from the statement his campaign released earlier today:

I have decided to withdraw from the Los Angeles Mayoral Race.  While everything I’ve learned exploring the possibility has reinforced my view of how much our city needs leadership who will solve problems, it has also reminded me of my responsibilities as a husband and father.  My family has been my biggest supporter in this effort, but my own needs at this time are for me to be engaged with my family in a way which is at odds with the demands of a campaign.

Read into that what you will. In some respects, it's too bad that Beutner couldn't achieve more traction. As I noted back in January, Beutner had been credited, in a Los Angeles Magazine profile, with effectively running the city, as a kind of quasi-mayor. He also shared the DNA of several other notable and highly successful financiers who heeded the call of public service:

[I]n his career, Beutner has basically been on the "good" side of investment banking. The "vulture capitalist" tag that's been applied to Mitt Romney for his time at Bain doesn't apply to Beutner. In fact, if you want to look to antecedents for his kind of investment banker, you'd turn to guys like Felix Rohatyn and Steven Rattner — "wise men" bankers who've always had an eye on public service (both worked for Lazard Freres, a model for Evercore's "boutique" approach). Heck, Rohatyn is generally credited with saving New York City from its 1970s financial crisis, and Rattner oversaw the bailouts and bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors (Evercore advised GM during this time, but by then Beutner had retired from high finance). 

Impressive and admirable, but still not the same as running a business. Then again, running LA isn't necessarily like running a business, either — although in 2011 Los Angeles Magazine credited Beutner with effectively taking over the mayorship. Up to this point, Beutner has benefited from his stupendous private-sector success and willingness to work for basically nothing (as deputy mayor, he was paid $1 a year). But that message could now fall under much greater scrutiny, thanks to Romney. And Beutner's back-to-work plan, while containing all the right parts, could certainly be more ambition.

I had hoped, if he stayed in the race, to get him to talk about the challenges that very wealthy people, like himself and Romney, face when they leave business and run for office. Beutner could be refreshingly, if quietly, direct. He certainly set me straight last year when, at a meet-the-candidate event, I tried out a theory about small business lending on him that he didn't seem to think held much water.

We'll see if he's still willing to comment on these questions, now that he's turned over the quest for City Hall to others. He has said that he wants to continue to keep the issues that he was running on — education, quality of life, making L.A. an easier place to do business — in the minds of voters.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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