Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles



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Antonio Villaraigosa
Mayor of Los Angeles

By Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor

4 March 2009: The first from its majority Latino community, Antonio Villaraigosa became the 41st mayor of Los Angeles in May 2005 when he beat incumbent James Hahn in a run-off vote. Though seen as a competent mayor with 24 years of elected office behind him, the city’s Afro-American voters were seen to punish Hahn over his dismissal of LA police chief Bernard C. Parks in a low turnout poll, electing fellow Democrat Villaraigosa.

Update 21 May 2013: Eric Carcetti elected new mayor of Los Angeles. Antonio Villaraigosa was prevented from standing again due to term-limits.

He was re-elected in March 2009 following challenges by nine minor candidates. Villaraigosa unsuccessfully sought the mayoralty in 2001 but has held a variety of elected posts, including as a state assembly member. The mayor was short-listed for the 2008 World Mayor Award.

Born in 1953 as Antonio Villar to a Mexican father and mother of Mexican descent, his upbringing was blighted by acute poverty, his father’s alcoholism and domestic violence – to this day he is not in contact with his father. He now says he feels he has no need to defend his expensive tastes in clothes, given his childhood years. He was expelled from high school for fighting and became a civil rights activist at just 15, campaigning alongside Cesar Chavez. Although the young Villar was to come into contact with the city’s notorious gang culture, a tutor at East Los Angeles College paid for him to take his SATs. Villar’s passion for activism remained with him at college, where he led protests against the Vietnam war. Having graduated from UCLA with a degree in history, he also obtained a doctorate in jurisprudence from the Peoples’ College of Law.

Villar first came to prominence in city politics as an organiser for the United Teachers of Los Angeles. Having married Corine Raigosa in 1987, they combined their surnames to Villaraigosa. His mother, whom he adored, died in 1990, the year he secured election to Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He served on the body until his election to the California State Assembly in 1994 where he became Speaker and one of the most prominent Democrats in the state, earning him national connections that would later serve him well.

Although defeated in the 2001 mayoral race by James Hahn, who hailed from a family of public officials, he gained election to the Los Angeles City Council in 2003. Villaraigosa was chosen by John Kerry to be one of the campaign chairs for his 2004 presidential bid, after which he declared his intention to run for Los Angeles mayor again. Although less than 24% of those registered to vote in the city did so, Villaraigosa beat Hahn handsomely in the run-off vote held after the inconclusive first round where he also led Hahn. The Villaraigosa campaign was notable on this occasion for building a broader coalition of supporters than his previous attempt, securing the vital backing of key Democrats and community leaders. His 2009 re-election effort easily coasted to victory, though not by the wide margin predicted.

Villaraigosa's name is frequently banded around for a number of post-mayoral offices, not least because of the city's term limits. Given the state's burgeoning Latino population, the Governor's mansion or a senatorial bid cannot be ruled out. The mayor enjoys a considerable profile outside of the state of California however, giving the Democratic Party's response to President Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, leading some to dub him 'Mayor Photoraigosa'. Villaraigosa was even suggested as a potential vice president to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s much discussed potential run for the presidency. However, his wife Corina Villaraigosa's filing for divorce in 2007 concerning his relationship with Telemundo reporter Mirthala Salinas dented his public standing considerably and could provide plenty of ammunition for opponents in any future races given America's expectations of high moral conduct from elected officials.


City Mayors' latest book 'Sustainability and the American City' has now been published. You may order your FREE copy now. Order form


City Mayors' latest book
Sustainability and the American City
Americans can imagine a sustainable world, but can they attain it?

The answer may lay in the deeply-help beliefs—the hard constants—that Americans carry with them.  Sustainability, after all, means changing one’s behavior by using fewer resources, adjusting consumption patterns, altering daily habits, and thinking long-term.

In Hard Constants, we see how these beliefs influence many of the activities that ultimately determine the prospects for sustainability: job hunting, grocery shopping, purchasing a car or home, electing a mayor, following the news, and, especially, planning and designing the urban areas where most Americans live.

Tony Favro shows that sustainability is neither obvious nor assured.  The future of sustainability—if sustainability has a future—will be located in an acknowledgement of universal values, in participatory democracy, and in human-scale design.

Hard Constants reveals the hard truths about sustainability—and what we can do about it.

Hard Constants: Sustainability and the American City is now available free of charge from City Mayors. To receive a pdf copy, please complete our order form. Libraries of academic institutions may receive a hard copy. Please provide contact details such as name, occupation and any organisation. Order form