Eric Garcetti 1 (copy)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tours downtown Greenville on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 with Greenville Mayor Pro Tem Jil Littlejohn. Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

WASHINGTON — As Eric Garcetti continues to consider a 2020 presidential campaign, a political action committee aligned with the Los Angeles mayor has brought on a top South Carolina Democratic operative, one of the first hires by a prospective candidate in the early primary state.

Phil Chambers, who was a senior advisor on James Smith's campaign for governor and the chief of staff to S.C. Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson, started working Monday in a leadership role at the Los Angeles-based Democratic Victory Fund — formerly known as the Democratic Midterm Victory Fund.

Garcetti, the second-term mayor of the country's second largest city, first visited South Carolina in February to tour Columbia and Greenville, and he returned in September to stump for Democratic congressional candidate Joe Cunningham in Charleston.

In between, Garcetti hosted a fundraiser for South Carolina Democrats in his hometown, giving the state party a $100,000 boost. He then used that template to help out local parties and candidates in more than a dozen other states around the country, including other historically Republican southern states like Mississippi and Oklahoma.

"I love the mission of the Victory Fund and what they were able to do in 2018, wholeheartedly investing in places where a lot of other Democrats wouldn't go," Chambers said. "They see the value of state parties and building the Democratic infrastructure, and that's important for us to be doing in 2020 just as it was in 2018."

Garcetti has been open for months about his consideration of a presidential campaign. But whether or not the mayor runs, longtime Garcetti aide Rick Jacobs said the PAC will continue to support Democratic state parties and candidates nationwide moving forward.

Jacobs, who is managing the PAC, first met Chambers during Garcetti's visit to Columbia in February.

"He's a very smart, talented human being, and he believes in what we're doing," Jacobs said. "We're small but mighty, and Phil really is — as they say in the military — a force multiplier for us because he has so many different skills and great judgement." 

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In the months before the midterm elections, a steady stream of presidential prospects visited South Carolina, a pivotal primary state that presents one of the first major tests for Democratic candidates with a more diverse electorate.

Now that the midterms are over, would-be candidates have begun reaching out to potential staffers in the Palmetto State, where top Democratic talent is finite. More candidates are expected to visit the state soon, too.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who also campaigned for Cunningham, is set to return to South Carolina on Friday evening to headline an annual fundraiser for the Charleston Trident Urban League.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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