Caruso pondering run against Antonio

Shopping-mall mogul and former Jim Hahn commissioner Rick Caruso says he's considering a challenge to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa next year. He tells the Times' Tina Daunt, for her Cause Celebre column in Calendar:

"I've been approached to run by a number of people. I'm considering it. We need some changes in the city and some strong leadership." If he decides not to run, he says, "I would be happy to support anyone who would move the city forward."

With Democrat Villaraigosa keenly aware of the impending competition, director Rob Reiner called an evening strategy session with the mayor and his top entertainment industry backers at his home in Brentwood last month. The gathering, held in Reiner's screening room, looked a lot like a reunion of Hollywood for Hillary veterans, complete with the attendance of NBA great and all-around power player Magic Johnson.

"What Antonio wants to do is get out in front and show his strength to other candidates," Reiner said by phone between meetings Wednesday. "I don't think he'll have any problem."

If anything, the mayor's support of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid, which included long stints out on the campaign trail, has widened and solidified his own circle of entertainment industry support.


Among the two dozen or so people at Reiner's house that night were entrepreneur Casey Wasserman (grandson of the legendary LewWasserman), Disney CEO Robert Iger, HBO Films President Colin Callender, Hillary fundraiser/businessman Sim Farar and media mogul Haim Saban.

Chad Griffin and Ari Swiller have been busy working the phones to organize Antonio fundraisers, Daunt says, adding: "Others signing on to support the mayor include Chandler family consigliere Tom Unterman and NBC-Universal head Ron Meyer." Caruso has at least one former Hahn aide, Matt Middlebrook, on his payroll. Daunt calls LAPD chief Bill Bratton a wild card should a challenge happen, since he is very close to former police commission president Caruso.

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