The contours of the gubernatorial race have begun to sharpen. This is an important race, California has become the focal point of leadership for the resistance. California also is the richest and largest state in the nation with a $2.3 trillion dollars economy. The state is not only “the forefront of most of the modern-day innovations. but it also leads the nation in social policies and political discourse.” Two Republicans and many well-known Democrats are vying to replace termed-out Governor Brown. In California’s top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the general election that will be held in November.
“25% or 5.2 million of all voters in California live in Los Angeles County. A 47.5% plurality of this county is Latino voters.” This might be the reason why former Mayor Villaraigosa is polling better than he did three or six months ago. Latinos might have started flocking to him.
In the last poll, it appeared that Mayor Villaraigosa might be heading for the general election as he is behind by two or three points from Lt. Governor Newsom, the leading candidate. It is within the margin of error and people in Newsom’s camp must be concerned.
California Democratic Party held its convention this past weekend and a consensus for endorsement couldn’t be reached for a candidate in the governor’s race. Although this gubernatorial race looks like it is neck and neck, Villaraigosa only got 9% of the delegates support. Nevertheless, if Newsom and Villaraigosa eventually make it to the general election, it would be an interesting election. Candidates have faced problems with ethics and fidelity in the past. With a couple of exceptions, so far, all candidates have been cordial to one another. But comes the fall, it is expected that the gloves will come off and mud will start flying.
First time I heard Antonio Villaraigosa speak, I said wow, this man clearly is once in a generation leader. Charisma in abundance, a great speaker, a compelling life story and sterling-fighting-for-justice credentials. He also used to be a former union organizer and ACLU president. He spoke from the heart and he passionately made the case for progressive policies and closing the gap of the profound inequities that existed in the distribution of resources. His charisma and enticing and capturing smile substituted the lack of erudition and poetry in his speeches. Subsequently, he inspired hope in many people, me included.
Some history here for context, the former mayor emerged in the political firmament in the 1990s. The time when Latinos in Los Angeles were demanding more inclusivity in the conversations of power. Los Angeles was becoming browner and those in positions of power in the different institutions that comprised LA were not being receptive to the new demographics. A turning point in LA’s civic landscape took place when a Latino by the name of Miguel Contreras was elected to lead the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. This house of labor had been resisting change and was oblivion of the new immigrant workers. Contreras not only shook off labor and provided a new vision but he also made the house of labor a political powerhouse. Former Mayor Villaraigosa was very close to this labor leader.
A Latino winning the mayoral race in 2005 was a radical change in the city’s civic landscape. Villaraigosa marched into city hall waving a flag of diversity that demanded more voices to be included in this city’s leadership. These demands were rooted in the realities on the ground, Latinos have reached a critical mass in the city and their needs were often being neglected. The passage of Prop. 187 in the 1990s made our community realized that we could no longer stay on the sidelines-we needed to agitate and organize our community in order to acquire political power. It was a new day in L.A. We started becoming citizens and started registering to vote and radically changed our civic institutions.
Mayor Villaraigosa has cheerleaders who love him to death and he also has detractors who dislike him with the same passion that his supporters love him.
His detractors see him as a finger-to-the-wind politician who blatantly chooses his own self-interest at the expense of the collective interest of the community. “Yes, the man didn’t do much for Latinos, he sold-out,” his detractors vehemently argue. Those progressives on the left were utterly disappointed because Mayor Villaraigosa didn’t use the power of the offices he had held to advance more substantive progressive policies for the poor. Specifically, policies on housing, where he was expected to do more.
After Mayor Villaraigosa left city hall in 2013, he revealed during a recent gubernatorial debate hosted by Univision that when he was broke. Hence he needed to work. He immediately went to work for the corporate capitalists and became a millionaire. While consulting for corporate people, Mayor Villaraigosa accepted shady gigs like the one for Herbalife which he publicly defended as being a good ethical company after it was reported that the company had been fined $200 million dollars by federal regulators for using pyramid scheme business fraudulent models that targeted and bilked humble Latino immigrants.
His supporters, on the other hand, argue that man is not perfect and he did what he could within the circumstances. This group of supporters focuses on the policies that the former Mayor shepherded while being a mayor and Speaker of the Assembly. And they point out some of the following achievements: Proposition R which raised $40 billion to improve public transit would not have been possible without Mayor Villaraigosa’s leadership. He was also instrumental in bringing crime down in the city that eventually attracted billions of dollars for new developments. And when it came to the environment, the man rolled up his sleeves and dealt with environmental problems head-on. He spent some political capital took on business groups that saw “clean trucks” as an unnecessary expense needed to carry out business in Los Angeles. He demanded these trucks to be used by Los Angeles Port know for being a major source of pollution in LA and other cities located nearby.
It is true his supporters claim, Mayor Villaraigosa might have given the finger to teachers’ union. And, deservedly so, teachers have lost perspective of their mission which is to educate our children. They have failed the most needed students in our communities of color. Any change to our schools was rejected by waving the “privatization” flag and accusing those proposing the change of working for charter schools, these supporters claim without blinking. These supporters see a display of leadership when Mayor Villaraigosa stood up to the teachers’ union.
They also claim that, while being a mayor, Villaraigosa was a powerful ally for other labor unions that were organizing poor people in this city. They alluded to the role he played in helping poor people working as security guards to join a union. He is credited with making the case to building owners to allow security guards to join a union. He also led the charge to expand “living wage” for hotel workers working close to the Airport, his supporters said.
Latino elected officials call themselves “progressives,” But they also like to win elections and know that poor folks are politically unorganized and don’t vote. Consequently, they see their self-preservation linked to the corporate interest. They need these powerful corporate’s political contributions to stay in power. Of course, occasionally these corporate democrats would drift into progressive land and pursue progressive policies, e.g., free first-year community college education, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),” driver licenses for “illegal” immigrants, mandatory Chicano Studies for high school students etc.
Thank you for reading.
Cadelago, Christopher. “The truth behind Villaraigosa’s Herbalife gig and Newsom’s precious metals.” Sacramento Bee 26 Jan. 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Drier, Peter “LA Magazine’s Failure: Irresponsible Journalism.” Huffington Post: Media 27 June 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.
Garofoli, Joe. “California Democratic Party shocks Dianne Feinstein by not endorsing her.” San Francisco Chronicle 25 Feb. 2018. Web. 25 Feb. 2018
Lacabe, Margarita. “The Reports of the Death of Chiang’s Campaign are greatly exaggerated.” California Super-progressive anti-Corporate Political Activists 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 24 Feb. 2018
Leibowitz, Ed. “Villaraigosa’s Lasting Legacy: You Fail Sometimes.” Los Angeles Magazine 10 April 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2018.
Marinucci, Carla. “Poll: California governor’s race a toss-up.” Politico 8 Feb. 2018. Web. 22 Feb. 2018.
Mehta, Seema. Phil Willion. “Former aide to Gavin Newsom speaks out about their affair while he was San Francisco mayor.” Los Angeles Times 7 Feb. 2018. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.
Menezes, Ryan. Maloy Moore. “In the race to become California’s next governor, fundraising favors one candidate.” Los Angeles Times 5 Jan. 2018. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.
Skeels, Robert D. ” Villaraigosa: The Myth of The Progressive Mayor.” LA Progressive 5 July 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.
Photo credit: Paula Abdul and Antonio Villaraigosa at the Ceremony Honoring Los Angeles Lakers’ Owner Jerry Buss with the 2,323rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA. 10-30-06. Pic was obtained from Bigstock. The former mayor was on top of his game here.