Politics

'Ungovernable' California

Today's New York Times Magazine devoted more than 8,000 words to the question: "Who can possibly govern California?" Reporter Mark Leibovich gets at his inquiry through Gavin Newsom, the other candidates for governor and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of the 2010 race, he writes: "It will be entertaining. So many people (12 percent of the American population), so many problems, so many stories — tales of horror, of redemption, of twists and turns." Regarding Antonio Villaraigosa, he writes:

Few politicians are as embattled as Villaraigosa is these days: he is confronting a $530 million budget deficit, a cranky electorate, plunging poll numbers and an increasingly hostile press. (“Failure,” screamed the cover line of the June issue of Los Angeles magazine over a photo of the mayor.) And yet he almost ran anyway.

I attended Villaraigosa’s State of the City address in April, back when it looked as if he would run. It resembled a presidential event, with three flags arrayed on stage and a very visible security team outside: police cars, black S.U.V.’s and lots of large men with earpieces standing in what Hunter S. Thompson called the Deadly Pounce Position. Before the speech, I mistakenly entered Villaraigosa’s makeup room, thinking it was the men’s room, and found the mayor perched on a swivel chair and covered entirely in a white smock, possibly asleep. Of all the California leaders I spent time with, Villaraigosa, who is 56, seemed to be having the least fun. When I met with him after his speech, he was sipping green tea and keeping strenuously on message — the message being that he was focused on being mayor. And he then referred to “my State of the State” address, not his State of the City address. Freudian slip? “Well, you were talking about the state,” Villaraigosa said defensively, and he spent the next several minutes being more careful.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez says in the piece there is about a 20% chance she will run, adding "things can change.”


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