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Zev Yaroslavsky opts not to run to be Los Angeles's next mayor (updated)

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After more than a year of speculation, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky announced today he will not run for mayor of Los Angeles because “it’s time for a new generation of leaders to emerge and guide this region into the future."

Yaroslavsky, 63, has served in elected office since he first joined to the L.A. City Council in 1975. He was later elected to the Board of Supervisors, a job he has held since 1994.

“Beginning as a 26-year-old councilman, I have quite literally come of age in public life at the forefront of Los Angeles’ most critical issues. While I have never been a supporter of term limits, I do believe that four decades is long enough for any citizen to hold elective office, especially in an executive capacity,” Yaroslavsky said in a statement on his website.

Deciding whether to run for mayor has been “one of the most difficult decisions of my political life,” Yaroslavsky said.

Political insiders had figured Yaroslavsky would be the frontrunner if he chose to join the 2013 mayor’s race. He first ran for the job against then-mayor Tom Bradley in 1989. Though the primary is still more than six months away, August was seen as the unofficial deadline for Yaroslavsky’s decision. In 2005, which was the last time Los Angeles had a competitive mayoral race, Antonio Villaraigosa was seen as a frontrunner, and he held off his announcement until August of 2004. Villaraigosa went on to place first in the primary and ultimately defeated Mayor Jim Hahn.

Yaroslavsky will be termed out of his current position at the end of 2014. In an interview with KPCC’s AirTalk, the supervisor said the decision not to run was entirely personal.

“I don’t want to be doing this for eight more years,” Yaroslavsky said. “I have a new granddaughter up north. Every time I go see her, I feel very guilty about leaving my post.”

“I’m not sure I’m going to miss anything, to be honest with you,” Yaroslavsky said. “In life, you change jobs. You change careers. You retire … you move on.”

In his retirement from public life, Yaroslavsky suggested he may want to write or teach, while remaining involved in Los Angeles’ civic life.

More than a decade ago, Yaroslavsky was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. The news forced the supervisor to dramatically change his diet and habits. He told AirTalk’s Larry Mantle, though, that health did not factor into today’s announcement.

“Absolutely no health reasons. I did one of my fastest four mile runs this morning,” Yaroslavsky said. “My health is fine.” 

The leading contenders to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are Councilman Eric Garcetti, Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry and former talk radio host Kevin James. It isn't quite clear which of those candidates might benefit the most from Yaroslavsky's decision, said Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA. 

“I don’t know who is going to benefit the most because it could all be trumped if Zev chooses one of the candidates to endorse, then to some degree the advantage the candidates get out of him being out of the race would be changed if he ended up picking a side," Sonenshein said. 

Garcetti is known for his close relationship with Yaroslavsky. As a sign of that friendship, Yaroslavsky officiated Garcetti’s 2009 wedding to Amy Wakeland. 

“Zev Yaroslavsky has always led with intellect, creativity and determination. I have always admired his work to tackle our toughest challenges -- like homelessness, transportation and making L.A. a more livable city -- and it has been an honor to call him a colleague and friend,” Garcetti said in a statement. 

In her own statement, Greuel likened Yaroslavsky to two iconic L.A. leaders – former Mayor Tom Bradley and former Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

“In my life I have been fortunate to work with all three of these public service giants. Zev's service has been remarkable,” Greuel said. “Zev has always put policy above politics to deliver results.

Yaroslavsky told KPCC it is too soon to know whether he will make an endorsement in the race.

This post has been updated.

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