Do 75 California Mayors Now See a Presidential Candidate in the Mirror?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Do 75 California Mayors Now See a Presidential Candidate in the Mirror?

South Bend, Indiana, is home to 102,000 people. Its mayor Pete Buttigieg is now a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president.

California has 75 cities with more people than South Bend.

Do their mayors now see a possible president when they look in the mirror?

Probably not.

California mayors are often weak figures, who aren’t elected directly to the job. Instead, they are city council membership who rotate through the mayoralty. Their real power involves hiring and firing the appointed city managers who do the real local governance in California.

But then again, maybe the door for mayors should be open.

Mayors represent cities, and cities are growing in importance around the world because they bring together people with energy, ambition, education and knowledge.

Cities also have a growing role as protectors of democracy against increasingly large and authoritarian national governments. One growing trend: cooperative efforts between cities to pursue common policies, from climate to infrastructure to education to trade, and defend them democratically.

In such a world, the path from city hall to the White House might not be so short.

So, looking at the list of cities, how about Mayor Rebecca Jones of San Marcos, which like South Bend is a university town?

Or maybe San Mateo Mayor Diane Papan should make a run. She’s got no less a chance than Eric Swalwell.

San Mateo and San Marcos have populations almost identical to that of South Bend.

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