June 20, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Villaraigosa Ascending, Newsom Plateauing

By Tom Elias

This is one article in a series of interviews with significant candidates for governor of California.

Antonio Villaraigosa reads the polls, both his own campaign’s internal surveys and the public ones reported frequently via newspapers and television. These days, they make him feel good.

“I’m on the ascendancy,” the former Los Angeles mayor and onetime state Assembly speaker smiles when asked to assess how his campaign is doing. Yes, he’s still in second place in every poll reported so far, but his numbers look far better than they did early last year, when he began his first statewide campaign.

When he entered, Villaraigosa drew just 6 percent in the first poll on the race, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California. In that outfit’s most recent survey and one from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, he was up to 21 percent. By comparison, early leader Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor and ex-mayor of San Francisco, is down from his initial 31 percent to 23 percent. Newsom says he’s not interested in polls; Villaraigosa is.

“I talk more about middle class jobs,” Villaraigosa said in an interview in a Los Angeles restaurant. “I talk about building things. We are doing extremely well in Southern California – Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties.”

Villaraigosa believes an 18-month “listening tour” he took around most parts of California has given him an important edge. “I saw that people are interested in economic prosperity,” he said. “I got a sense for what most people here want. Many of them feel the economy is not working for them. They are doing all the right things, punching all the right boxes, but they need help from the state to grow middle class jobs.”

Contrasting his record with that of Newsom, with whom every poll indicates he’s likely to be matched in a two-Democrat November runoff election, Villaraigosa doesn’t actually say this race could pit his practicality against the idealism that saw Newsom pioneer same-sex marriage and universal health care in San Francisco. But it seems like things might go that way.

“For me, this isn’t about any contrasts between me and (outgoing Gov.) Jerry Brown or Newsom,” Villaraigosa said, “It’s about me and my sense of California. I met a lot of really good, hard-working people on my tour and it gave me a sense that we’ve got to build again. We need to fix our roads and highways, maybe build more. We need to fix our schools because so many of them are crumbling. And I am for high speed rail.”

Villaraigosa recognizes that he might not seem quite as “progressive” as Newsom, one reason he got only 9 percent support in the spring state Democratic Party convention, dominated by the party’s left wing. But he says his record of building and repairing schools, renewing the Los Angeles airport and hiring 1,000 more police during his eight years as mayor might resonate among moderate Democrats and with the 25 percent of state voters who are registered as Republicans. Add that to his strong Latino support.

“We all have to make choices, and that might be what Republicans face here,” he said. “There’s a sense that the two of us (he and Newsom) may be in the runoff and if so, people will have to decide if I’ll do what I say. The way to tell is to look at what I did as mayor of the largest city in the state, which is also the richest city and the poorest city and the most diverse city. Violent crime dropped 49 percent while I was mayor, homicides 40 percent. One in three Los Angeles schools were classed as failing when I came in; that went down to one in 10. We built three light rail lines and two busways. And we were the No. 1 city in reducing carbon emissions.”

Like Newsom, Villaraigosa has been questioned about his admitted marital indiscretions, and like Newsom, he’s expressed regrets. But he says that hasn’t been an issue for most people. “I’ve only been asked about it in debates, never at a campaign event,” he said.

Listening to Villaraigosa, then, you get the feeling he thinks this campaign will be about issues more than personalities. He might be right.

Gubernatorial candidate, Antonio Villaraigosa.
Photo: Antonioforcalifornia.com
Related Posts

SM.a.r.t Column: The Up Zoning Scam (Part 1)

June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024

Over the last few years, the State of California has mandated a massive upzoning of cities to create capacity for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Shape Up – On Steroids

June 9, 2024

June 9, 2024

Nine years ago, SMa.r.t wrote a series of articles addressing the adaptive re-use of existing structures. We titled one “Shape...

SM.a.r.t Column: The Challenge of Running a City When City Staff Have Different Priorities

June 2, 2024

June 2, 2024

Living in a city has its perks, but it can be a real headache when the folks running the show...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path to Affordable Ownership in Santa Monica

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

[Note: our guest author today is Andres Drobny, a former Professor of Economics at the University of London, the former...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part II

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

As referenced in Part I of this article, the state’s use of faulty statistics and forceful legislation has left a...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part I

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

To quickly summarize, California grapples with an ongoing housing crisis spurred by state implementation of over 100 policies and mandates...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Where Will Our Huddled Masses Sleep? Navigating California’s Affordable Housing Mandates

May 5, 2024

May 5, 2024

Just as Lady Liberty beckons the “huddled masses” of immigrants to America, cities like Santa Monica have an ethical obligation...

SM.a.r.t Column: SMCLC SPEAKS

April 28, 2024

April 28, 2024

SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow) periodically invites guest columnists who have made a significant contribution to the...

SM.a.r.t Column: Building Modern Boxes Lacks Identity

April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024

In the relentless pursuit of modernity, cities worldwide have witnessed the rise of so-called architectural marvels in the form of...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Santa Monica Needs Responsible Urban and Architectural Design

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

[SMa.r.t. note: Eight years ago, our highly esteemed and recently-passed colleague Ron Goldman documented his thoughts on the need for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: BLINK NOW!

April 7, 2024

April 7, 2024

Nine years ago, I wrote a column for SMa.r.t. titled SANTA MONICA: BEACH TOWN OR ‘DINGBAT’ CITY? (https://smdp.com/2015/05/09/santa-monica-beach-town-dingbat-city/)Here is the...

SM.a.r.t Column: ARB Courage (Part 2 of 2)

March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024

Last week we discussed the numerous flaws of the Gelson’s project as a perfect example of what not to do...

ARB Courage (Part 1 of 2)

March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024

On March 4, 2024, your ARB (Architectural Review Board) ruled in favor of the 521-unit Gelson’s Project at Ocean Park...

SM.a.r.t Column: Can California ARBs Balance Affordable Housing with Community Character in the Face of New Housing Laws?

March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024

By suggestion, I attended the March 4th ARB (Architectural Review Board) meeting that addressed the Gelson Lincoln Boulevard Project.  After...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Need for Safety

March 10, 2024

March 10, 2024

Earlier this week, in the dark pre-dawn hours, a pair of thugs covered in masks and hoodies burst into the...