Mayor Eric Garcetti cannot run again in 2022 due to being termed out. He was nominated in July by President Joe Biden to serve as U.S. ambassador to India. He is expected to leave office early pending the U.S. Senate's confirmation of his appointment.
De León, a career politician, has spent 12 years in the California legislature - four as an assemblyman and eight in the state senate, where he also served as its president. The 54-year-old is fluent in Spanish and native of L.A.
"I want to work hard every single day to make sure L.A. serves its people by lifting them up and giving them an opportunity so they can achieve their dreams," De León said Tuesday morning during an event announcing his candidacy.
De León is joining an already long list of candidates.
Fellow City Councilman Joe Buscaino has been campaigning for months. So has L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.
Jessica Lall, of the L.A.-based Central City Association, recently announced her candidacy. As has San Fernando Valley real-estate broker Mel Wilson.
And to further complicate things, longtime Congresswoman Karen Bass is said to be considering a run at the mayor's office.
Billionaire developer Rick Caruso is reportedly also considering a run. Austin Beutner, the former superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District, is also being mentioned as another candidate for mayor.
"The mayor of L.A. is the political leader most recognized in Southern California and has a national profile. It's a phenomenally attractive position," said Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.
Sonenshein says the inherent power of the mayor now comes with a citywide homelessness problem that continues to grow worse and has caused serious political damage to Mayor Eric Garcetti and pretty much everyone charged with fixing it.
"It's been a problem for the city council, for all the elected officials, for all the appointed officials," Sonenshein said. "Somebody has to be able to find a path that can be successful."
Will that person be De León? As councilman, he represents the Boyle Heights area and one community group there that works to clean the streets showed up at his event Tuesday to blast him for not doing enough.
"We have homelessness. We have illegal dumping. Who's really doing anything about it? He's not," said Barbara Martinez of the advocacy group First Blocks of Whittier Boulevard. "He just goes to certain places where we go clean up and he claims that he cleaned it. I'm tired of that."
There is still plenty of time for others to join the race. The primary is set for June and the top two finishers square off on Election Day on Nov. 8, 2022.