New York Times bureau chief Adam Nagourney sat down for an hour-long interview with Antonio Villaraigosa and gave his record as mayor a mid-term examination, concluding that things are looking up after a few down years. Front and center on the NYT website at the moment.
With a little more than one year left in his final term in office, a reappraisal of Mr. Villaraigosa is under way amid signs that he is orchestrating a shift in his political fortunes. Mr. Villaraigosa’s name has returned to the small list of next-generation Democrats who have been waiting in the wings as members of the old guard of California politics move closer to retirement.
“There are plenty of people in L.A. who aren’t going to feel great about him personally — that’s always going to be true,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, the executive director of the of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University. “But he’s really made a comeback that will pay off in a statewide race. He has politically recovered in a lot of ways.”
None of which is to say that Mr. Villaraigosa has recaptured the electric popularity that he enjoyed in the flush of his initial election, as a mayor of Mexican descent in a city with a vibrant and expanding population of Mexican-Americans. (He was its first Latino mayor in more than a century.) When his convention appointment was announced, a group of city workers that has battled with the mayor responded on its Twitter account: “Can this genius really be advancing politically after the disaster he has been to Los Angeles?”
One of the people seeking to succeed him, Austin Beutner, whom Mr. Villaraigosa appointed as his first deputy mayor, has been sharply critical of “the barnyard called City Hall,” as he describes his former place of work.
For his part, Mr. Villaraigosa, in the interview, argued that he had repaired much of the damage he caused with the affair, but he also attributed many of his difficulties to an economy that had forced a retrenchment and layoffs.
Friends Maria Elena Durazo and Peter Dreier speak up for the mayor in the piece.