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Poll: With Newsom out, should Villaraigosa jump into the governor's race?

October 30, 2009 |  3:56 pm

NewsomLet the speculation over recently reelected L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's gubernatorial ambitions resume, beginning with this blogpost. He already said he wasn't interested in the job (at least this time around), but that was before San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the race today, leaving former governor and California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown as the last man standing in the Democratic Party field. Villaraigosa has a few natural advantages; namely, he would be the only nonwhite candidate and the only hopeful from Southern California in the field (Republicans Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell are all from the Silicon Valley, and Brown emerged from political exile as mayor of Oakland before becoming attorney general).

Back before Villaraigosa announced his non-candidacy in June, former state Sen. Tom Hayden predicted in a Times Blowback piece that Villaraigosa would run but that his chances in a two-man race against Brown weren't good:

There is a path to victory in the Democratic primary for Villaraigosa if he runs against three white male candidates: former Gov. Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi. Villaraigosa will be able to claim the Latino vote -- roughly 28% of primary voters -- thus needing only an additional 12% to reach the 40% probably needed to succeed in a divided field. In a two-way race against Brown, on the other hand, Brown wins. ...

Some say he first should do the job he was elected to do. They don't understand his DNA or that of most power politicians. Villaraigosa is not a policy wonk; instead, he looks for good ideas that he can market as sound bites, such as "greening L.A." or "subway to the sea." Like any Machiavellian, his mission is to expand power for himself and for the forces he has chosen to represent -- Latinos and labor foremost -- while also cultivating an image as pro-growth, pro-business and pro-police. He still needs to win a greater base among environmentalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but the demographics of California politics are trending his way.

Hayden was responding to a Feb. 27 Op-Ed article in The Times by Marc Cooper, who made the case against a run by the mayor:

The mayor's first term was a mixed bag, even if you put aside his personal contretemps. He's laid some groundwork for an eventual crosstown rail system, but it's still a long way from certain it will be built. He's worked effectively with LAPD Chief Bill Bratton to modernize and expand the force, but there are still plenty of crime problems, including gang warfare, that need attention. He flubbed a bid to take over the city's public schools, but then gave his blessing to a successful behind-the-scenes move to oust the lackluster David Brewer as superintendent. And he has done some work, though not all he promised, to improve the handful of schools he now controls. ...

Holding the title of governor of the Golden State obviously confers more personal prestige than reigning as Chief Angeleno. The former is about personal glory and tussling for four years with a brain-dead Legislature. The second is about saving America's second-biggest city and, in doing so, not exactly failing to rack up a nice little bundle of political glory points.

What do you think? With Newsom out, should Mayor Villaraigosa take a shot at becoming Gov. Villaraigosa? Take our unscientific poll, leave a comment or do both.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on Oct.11. Credit: David Cannon / Getty Images.

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