By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Wow! Some tease, that Maxine! I don’t know what MORE we may find out about Villaraigosa, but we‘ll soon find out if L.A.-area progressives are such saps that they’ll keep funding Maxine‘s pet causes out of some misplaced nostalgia, while she merrily hones her innuendo to a level worthy of Joe McCarthy.
Speaking of misplaced nostalgia: The Hahn campaign seems very familiar to anyone who remembers the campaigns that Sam Yorty waged against Tom Bradley in 1969 and 1973. Like Villaraigosa, Bradley was depicted as new and untrustworthy. (When he first ran for mayor in 1969, he’d served on the City Council for six years -- exactly the length of Villaraigosa‘s Assembly career, as Waters conveniently failed to note while decrying the former speaker’s lack of experience.) Like Villaraigosa, Bradley was attacked for being soft on crime. The Yorty campaign played the race card more directly than the Hahn campaign, but L.A. was a different city then, and Hahn, unlike Yorty, has to take care not to overplay his hand.
The question before the Villaraigosa campaign is whether it‘s the Bradley campaign of ’69 (which never did figure out a way to counter Yorty‘s charges) or ’73 (which did). In a debate Tuesday, Villaraigosa issued not a peep about Hahn‘s attacks. To date, his response has been to concede, and apologize for, his intervention on Vignali’s behalf, and to argue, at least by inference, that Vignali notwithstanding, his overwhelming lead in endorsements among well-regarded leaders and institutions that have weighed the candidates‘ merits makes clear he’d be the better mayor. As this weekend‘s endorsement from the Times, and Wednesday’s effusions from the Washington Post‘s David Broder, dean of the D.C. commentariat, make clear, Villaraigosa has managed to emerge as the establishment’s consensus pick as well as the progressives‘ darling. It’s a stunning tribute to his skills as a leader. Then again, Tom Bradley had both character references and character, too, and still lost the first time out.
That said, this is not the Los Angeles of the backlash year of 1969, and the situation may be nowhere so bleak as Tuesday‘s Times poll, which put Hahn ahead by 47 percent to 40 percent, suggests. In Villaraigosa’s own poll, conducted by Mark Mellman and completed the same day as the Times‘, he actually held a 44 percent to 41 percent lead over Hahn. And while the Times’ last pre-primary poll understated Villaraigosa‘s vote by 9 percent, the last Mellman poll before the primary had Villaraigosa ahead by 5 percent -- which is precisely where he finished.
Convinced that their man won’t come out ahead in a mud bath, Villaraigosa‘s consultants are counting instead on the endorsements he’s won, on the massive field campaign being waged on his behalf, on the intensity of his supporters -- and, finally, on the charisma of the candidate himself. More than anyone else plying the politician‘s trade in L.A. or California today, Villaraigosa is a natural -- able to touch a crowd, to inspire it with his energy and affability and, like Bradley, with the symbolism of his story. Quite unlike the reserved Bradley, however, Villaraigosa also inspires a mix of familiar affection and rock-star excitement at his rallies. In the late-afternoon sun of a Memorial Day barbecue for 300 returning precinct walkers in the east San Fernando Valley, the effusive and dapper candidate hugged and bantered with his backers. High school girls laughed and squealed, and one young man greeted him with ”Cool shirt, man!“ A few minutes later, Villaraigosa climbed onto the speaker’s platform, and told them about the need to create profitable businesses, then added, ”When we create wealth, regular people should get their share; we should get some of it back. And we shouldn‘t feel ashamed when that happens.“
He is one of them even as he has become this almost unimaginable projection of what they aspire to; he speaks to the nation now, but remains, at least partly, of the hood -- a very polyglot hood. In much the manner that Al Smith (the great New York governor of the 1920s) would extol the Irish-Jewish-Italian Lower East Side where he grew up, Villaraigosa gets a visible kick out of the ethnic mishmash of volunteers who walk for him, whom he’s brought together in common cause; out of the ethnic mishmash that is Los Angeles, which he now aspires to bring together, too. He is the face of our future; the only question is whether that future arrives next Tuesday or several years hence.