Villaraigosa's day and more politics notes

Today is Antonio Villaraigosa's 62nd birthday and once again he's all over the politics news cycle. Last night in Washington, he teased a dinner gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors — a group he used to head — with a quip that everyone in the room know had a backstory. “I just want you to know that there’s press here in the back of the room,” Villaraigosa said. “So I have an important announcement to make [wait for it….] The dessert will be served in just a moment.” Apparently he got a laugh.

In the two weeks since Barbara Boxer announced she won't run again in 2016, Villaraigosa has emerged as the leading unofficial, but very busy behind-the-scenes, contender from Southern California. Attorney General Kamala Harris has the momentum in Northern California, but Latino leaders here in the south aren't too happy about that. Looking at today's stories, it's clear there is some positioning going on.

This afternoon, state controller John Chiang said he won't run, and San Francisco politics eminence Willie Brown urged Villaraigosa to defer to Harris' aspirations. Here is some of the coverage:

The LA Times' Michael Finnegan picks up on the pushback from LA area Latinos about the northern wing of the state Democratic party anointing Harris.

Some of Villaraigosa's Latino allies in L.A. have suggested that Harris was anointed by the San Francisco Democrats who have long dominated the party in California. Fabian Nuñez, like Villaraigosa a former state Assembly speaker, described her as part of an entrenched Bay Area "machine" that included Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and state party Chairman John Burton.

Boxer and Feinstein have been a "very strong collective political force" for the Bay Area since they won their Senate seats 22 years ago, Nuñez said, but Latinos now make up a much larger share of the California vote.

"The dynamics have changed since 1992," said Nuñez, who named Villaraigosa and Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) as viable contenders in a race against Harris. "We have a role to play."

Becerra and Sanchez are still weighing whether to run for Senate.

Villaraigosa met with consultants on his trip to Washington to speak to the gathered mayors, since past consultant Ace Smith is now working for Harris. From BuzzFeed's Ruby Cramer:

He has spent recent days working the phones unremittingly, assessing support from donors, and conferring with strategists from one of Washington’s top Democratic consulting firms: SKDKnickerbocker.

Villaraigosa has yet to set up a political committee, and hasn’t formally raised money, paid staff, or commissioned polling as of Friday. Only unofficially has he received help from SKDKnickerbocker officials, including managing directors Hilary Rosen and J.B. Poersch, according to three people familiar with the arrangement. (Rosen used to work in California and has been close to Villaraigosa for years. Poersch used to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.)

The mayors, or at least Sacramento's mayor, sounded supportive of Villaraigosa, per the Sacramento Bee:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, president of the mayors’ conference, all but endorsed his fellow Democrat.

“We’re all just reading about what may or may not happen,” Johnson told Villaraigosa. “But you know you’ve got a whole lot of mayors who are going to stand with you, no matter what you decide.”

Also: Jaime Regalado, the former head of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State LA, ponders in a piece for Zocalo Public Square the legacy of Gloria Molina and the backstory of her challenge this year to City Councilman Jose Huizar. Sample:

gloria-molina-metro-zocalo.jpgMolina’s career trajectory also reflected not only political but also social progress in L.A. In her 1982 race for the Assembly, she beat the Eastside machine by defeating Richard Polanco, a strong candidate later elected to the Assembly, with backing from powerful political players such as Richard Alatorre and Art Torres, as well as Eastside power broker Lou Moret. After five years, she left the Assembly to run for an open seat on the Los Angeles City Council, once again dispatching the Eastside machine with her victory over Larry Gonzalez, a then trustee of the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

That victory, like her 1991 election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was made possible and fueled by the federal Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed suit against the City in 1985 and the County in 1988 charging that redrawn political district lines had diluted and fractured Latin voting strength. The districts she won were both newly created, Latino-majority districts drawn in response to the litigation.

The nature of her victory–against the machine and the establishment–shaped Molina and her reputation as a giant killer, machine buster, vibrant force for women, and finally as a carrier of grudges. On this last point, she came to be widely perceived as having a pointed, harsh, frequently unfriendly and sometimes vindictive governing style.

One of the most significant facts of political life for the past two decades in Los Angeles was that Molina and organized labor did not get along.

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