Monday, June 22, 2009

Villaraigosa bows out of CA governor's race

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on national television today he would not be running for California governor in 2010 after flirting with a bid for higher office for months.

Elected to a second, four-year term in March, the mayor told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he wanted to devote his full attention to Los Angeles, which is facing its worst fiscal crisis in decades.

Villaraigosa’s decision adds a dash of clarity to the race for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination which, at the moment, appears will be between state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Brown has yet to say if he will run, while Newsom already has announced his candidacy.

In a recent Los Angeles Times Poll, voters citywide gave Villaraigosa a luke-warm approval rating, and a plurality opposed his entrance into the governor’s race. Villaraigosa received a favorable job approval rating from 55% of those surveyed, statistically equivalent to the vote he won in the city’s March election against a field of little-known and underfunded candidates.

Starting in July, the mayor and city council agreed to lay off 1,200 city workers, and furlough those who remain to help close a $530 million deficit for 2009-2010. City officials continue to negotiate with city unions for alternatives, but no deals have been announced.

Given the city’s precarious financial situation, and with Villaraigosa set to sworn into a new term on July 1, announcing for governor could have created a sticky political situation for the 56-year-old mayor.
Plus, winning the California governor’s race has proven to be an elusive quest for big-city mayors.

Several Los Angeles mayors including Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan and Sam Yorty all tried, and lost, along with San Francisco’s Joseph Alioto. Pete Wilson, the former mayor of San Diego, lost once and became a U.S. senator before trying again and claiming victory over former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who went on to become a U.S. senator.

The latest statewide Field Poll in March found that without Feinstein in the 2010 governor’s race, Brown was the top Democratic contender with 25%, followed by Villaraigosa with 22% and Newsom with 16%.

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