COLUMBIA — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is heading to South Carolina this week — another sign that presidential aspirants are beginning to trickle in to the Palmetto State two years ahead of the "First in the South" 2020 Democratic primary.
The advertised purpose of Garcetti's three-day visit is an advisory council meeting for an organization he started called Accelerator for America. The national coalition of mayors, business executives and nonprofit leaders formed last year to promote innovative ideas for local governments and companies.
But Garcetti, who has not denied interest in a presidential campaign, will also get the opportunity to introduce himself to South Carolina voters.
He is scheduled to raise funds for state Democrats, tour the Greenville area, visit Clemson University's automotive research center, meet with local community leaders and hold a public town hall meeting with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
Yusef Robb, a spokesman for Garcetti, said the Accelerator meeting will allow municipal leaders from all over the country to share some of their best ideas and learn from others. As an example, he pointed to a 2016 ballot initiative approved in Los Angeles that created a half-cent sales tax to generate $120 billion over four years for local infrastructure improvements.
Though many members of the advisory council are Democrats, including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who ran unsuccessfully for chairman of the Democratic National Committee last year, the group includes a few Republican business leaders.
"This is not about politics," Robb said. "This is about the contrast of the dysfunction in Washington and the needs of the American people outside of Washington."
Garcetti's tour is not the first trip to South Carolina from a 2020 contender. Former Vice President Joe Biden headlined the Charleston NAACP's 100th anniversary fundraiser in September, an event that prompted some South Carolina Democrats to speculate he is eyeing another bid for the White House.
That same night, U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland spoke at an Horry County Democratic Party dinner in Myrtle Beach. Delaney is the first Democrat to formally launch his 2020 presidential campaign and has already begun airing ads in Iowa, the first preference selection state.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stumped for two local candidates in Charleston in December.
Garcetti's next Accelerator meeting is set to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada — another early primary state.