After months of speculation, controversial former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa confirmed Thursday his intentions to run for governor of California in 2018.
Making his announcement two days after the presidential election of Republican Donald Trump, Villaraigosa wasted no time in portraying himself as a polar opposite of the president-elect.
“We are a state that builds bridges, not walls,” Villaraigosa, a Democrat, said. “We are inclusive. We celebrate our diversity. And we welcome newcomers. We know the answer to fear is hope. The answer to division is unity. And the answer to the millions who feel they have no voice is to make sure they are always heard.”
Villaraigosa’s personal life came under scrutiny while serving as mayor. His wife, Corina, filed for divorce in 2007, and one month later, Villaraigosa publicly acknowledged he was in an extra-marital relationship with a television newscaster, Mirthala Salinas. Following his divorce, Villaraigosa dated another television personality, KTLA midday news anchor and former Miss USA Lu Parker, for about three years.
In August, Villaraigosa married Patricia Govea.
Villaraigosa, who has been out of the spotlight for some time after leaving the mayor’s office in 2013, will have some formidable competition. Another former big-city mayor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, has been running for the state’s top office for some time.
Villaraigosa, 63, served as Los Angeles mayor for eight years. He previously served on the City Council and in the state Assembly from 1994-2000. He was Assembly Speaker from 1998-2000. He briefly considered a run for governor in 2010, but opted to remain mayor — particularly with Jerry Brown grabbing top billing as a Democratic candidate.
In his gubernatorial announcement, Villaraigosa highlighted his efforts to improve public transit — primarily through his efforts on behalf of the Measure R half-cent sales tax — and his push to reduce the city’s reliance on coal and its greenhouse gas emissions, which he said were reduced by 30 percent during his administration.
“I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish in Los Angeles and motivated by the opportunity and possibility we can continue to unlock in our great state,” he said. “California is the epicenter of innovation, and real innovation is finding ways to revitalize and strengthen the middle class. Innovation is continuing to be the sixth largest economy in the world while ensuring that every child has access to a quality education, everyone has access to quality health care and an affordable home, and everyone has the opportunity to achieve his or her own California dream.”
Villaraigosa has had a series of jobs since leaving the mayor’s office. He accepted positions at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; the multi-level marketing and nutritional supplement company Herbalife Ltd.; the Banc of California; and the Harvard University Institute of Politics. He was also a senior adviser at the Edelman public relations firm, and in 2013, he became a professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy.
Villaraigosa’s biggest competition so far in the race for governor is from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who announced his bid early last year.
—City News Service