Column: ​​Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Endorses Traci Park for City Council, First Major, Post Primary Nod for the Venice Challenger!

By Nick Antonicello

In what can be regarded as the first major, post primary endorsement by a significant Los Angeles Democrat and former elected official, CD-11 council candidate Traci Park announced the support of former two-term Democratic Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa, the first Latino LA mayor in over a century who served from 2005 through 2013 was the 41st chief executive of the country’s second largest municipality.

A former union organizer for the UTLA, Villaraigosa served as a LA council member, California state legislator (1994-2000), and LA mayor (2005-2013) while making an aborted run for the US Senate and finishing third in the 2018 open primary for governor to the eventual winner, Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom, who is also seeking reelection in November for a second and final term..

Villaraigosa attended East Los Angeles College and eventually transferred and graduated from UCLA and received his law degree from the People’s College of Law, but never passed the bar.

Villaraigosa currently teaches and does consulting work since leaving elective office.

While in the legislature, Villaraigosa served in the Democratic leadership as both Majority Leader and Speaker of the California Assembly.

Villaraigosa has played a major role in several presidential campaigns as he served as National Co-Chair of the 2008 Hillary Clinton for President and served as Chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention that re-nominated President Barack Obama to a second term of office. In 2020 Villaraigosa endorsed former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for president in the primaries before backing the eventual winner, President Joe Biden.

In 2001 Villaraigosa made his initial bid for LA Mayor challenging then City Attorney James Hahn, and finished first in the primary with some 30% of the vote. Hahn reversed the results in the runoff, defeating Villaraigosa 53-45%.

Four years later in a political rematch of sorts, Villaraigosa was first again in the primary with 33%, but easily defeated Hahn in the runoff with 58% of the vote.

In 2009 Villaraigosa faced a nominal challenge for reelection from one Walter Moore, garnering 56% to Moore’s 26.2% earning the incumbent a first-ballot victory.

Political observers saw the performance as lackluster despite a 2-1 victory against Moore who was perceived as a token candidate since a potential race by billionaire developer Rick Caruso never materialized. Caruso finished second in this year’s June 7th Primary having spent over $40,000,000 dollars, most of it self-financed against first-place finisher, US Congresswoman Karen Bass, a former speaker of the California legislature and longtime fixture in LA politics and government.

A former local chapter president of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees), the Villaraigosa endorsement is a huge boost to Park, who to date had yet to produce any endorsements from a significant Democratic Party elected official past or present, which had been an Achilles heal of sorts for her campaign.

With Antonio Villaraigosa, she now has a former LA mayor and California speaker, a known labor organizer and prominent member of the Latino political community with statewide and national stature on her resume.

Most have characterized Park’s candidacy as right-of-center with a populist twist. The Villaraigosa endorsement brings her candidacy back to the center somewhat in a time when she needed it most.

While many see this campaign to succeed Mike Bonin at halftime, this is really more like a “double-header” with Park scoring a marquee endorsement as we head into the final three months of this very competitive race for this open seat in CD-11.

Park, a former Republican and first-time candidate has received strong backing from the leaders of the 2021 Recall Bonin movement as well as a series of public safety, collective bargaining groups such as the LAPD’s Police Protective League (PPL) as well as the state’s powerful apartment owners lobby.

Darling, an unabashed progressive who has the endorsement of the incumbent Mike Bonin has also picked up the support of California Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica, newly elected Assembly member Tina McKinnor and outgoing LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Darling’s effort has been dogged by being described as just an extension of what many believe are the failed policies of the lame duck incumbent. Darling is also an attorney who’s practice is tenant advocacy and issues of civil rights.

Married with a son, Darling is a lifelong resident of Dogtown and former member of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venice resident covering the race for city council in LA’s CD-11 and how the race impacts the neighborhood of Venice. To reach Antonicello, e-mail him at nantoni@mindspring.com.

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