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Steve Lopez: Austin Buetner was stirring things up at City Hall

May 8, 2012 |  1:57 pm

Austin Beutner

When I met with him a few weeks ago, I asked Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner if he really wanted to sacrifice time with his wife and four kids -– aged between 15 and 9 -– to devote full attention to the unimaginably demanding task of running the nation’s second-largest city.

Steve LopezHe told me he had discussed it with his wife and kids, thought he could do both jobs well at the same time, and that he wanted to show his kids that if you think you can perform a public service and improve the lives of others, you do it.

Now Beutner has suddenly dropped out of the race, saying in a statement, “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.”

 So what happened?

“For me, family comes first,” he said by phone just moments ago.

Neither his wife nor his kids asked him to get off the trail and come home, he said.

 “It’s mostly me. I mean, my kids were supportive and my wife has been supportive, and it was me saying, ‘Wait a minute.’ I knew it was a delicate balancing act, but with the passage of time and just a few telling moments,” he realized that when it comes to family, “you can’t put time back on the clock.”

He said:

 “So maybe you miss one too many kids’ school performances and you say, ‘They’re fine.’ Well, maybe they are, but I’m not.”

Beutner, former job czar and deputy mayor to Antonio Villaraigosa, had been one of the biggest critics among candidates of the way City Hall operates, and he’d been stirring things up with claims that Fire Department response times were being misrepresented as faster than they truly are.

He said he isn’t ready to endorse one of the other candidates.

A Loyola Marymount poll last month showed that Beutner was practically unknown to L.A. voters, with City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry doing much better, along with city Controller Wendy Gruel and someone who hasn’t even entered the race – County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

So who does Beutner’s withdrawal help the most?

I don’t think it has a big impact, given how much time there is before the 2013 election.

Stay tuned.

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--Steve Lopez

Photo: Austin Beutner during a speech in Feb. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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