By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"There was no attempt to redistrict anyone into or out of a district," says attorney Frank Cardenas, who directed the redistricting panel. "It was an extremely open and public process. There were about a dozen large, publicly noticed meetings. I don't recall anyone speaking on Antonio Villaraigosa's behalf."
Villaraigosa rented a house in Hermon to make his run for the 14th, spurring Pacheco backers to accuse him of carpetbagging. It's just like in 1999, they claim, when big labor moved John Perez — Villaraigosa's cousin — into the district to capture the seat.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NICK Pacheco and Antonio Villaraigosa may be less about policy and ideology than about generation. Villaraigosa was a teenager during the Chicano Moratorium, the 1970 anti-war protests that for the first time riveted the nation's attention on the Latino Eastside.
"There was an upheaval in society," Villaraigosa's childhood friend James Aguirre recalls. "It set us into exploring different things. Antonio and I marched for civil rights, and against the war. There were rent strikes. Unionizing efforts."
Memory of the Moratorium and of the deaths of several Latinos at the hands of Sheriff's deputies remained fresh in the early 1970s when Villaraigosa became active in the UCLA chapter of the Chicano-rights group MEChA.
Pacheco was only 6 at the time of the Moratorium.
When he was older, Pacheco willingly stepped into the community's heritage of activism, joining his mother and the mothers of his schoolmates who organized marches in the mid-'80s against a proposed state prison on the Boyle Heights side of the Los Angeles River. When Mothers of East L.A. was created by Juana Gutierrez, the wife of United Neighborhood Organizations founder Ricardo Gutierrez, Pacheco typed out the bylaws.
Friends and foes alike reject any suggestion that his involvement was less sincere than that of the older brothers and sisters who battled tear gas and police batons on Whittier Boulevard during the anti-war protests. But times had changed. The march against the prison was a neighborhood-oriented campaign by members of a politically maturing community, directed at Latino leaders like Richard Alatorre, who declined to fight the project, and Richard Polanco, who at first voted for it.
Pacheco's first confrontation with the establishment came during term breaks from Berkeley and, later, from Loyola Law School, working with his friend Martin GutieRuiz — son of the UNO and Mothers of East L.A. organizers — against members of the earlier generation of Latino leaders. The fight was only marginally against an Anglo power structure. It was a far cry from the call for revolution sounded 15 years earlier.
Villaraigosa was never a revolutionary, yet in the Assembly he went head-to-head with Alatorre, Polanco, Art Torres and other members of the Eastside establishment far more often than Pacheco, by then fresh out of law school, ever did.
But Villaraigosa was forged in the spirit of the '60s and '70s, carried the fervor of civil rights and labor activism, and witnessed firsthand the limitations of race-based organizing.
"It's about generation," Rodriguez says. "Pacheco wasn't there as part of the Chicano generation."
Nor was Pacheco, although a child of working-class Mexican immigrants, the first in his family to go to college and join the establishment. His older brother paved the way to UC Berkeley and now practices medicine in Highland Park.
Pacheco took out papers in 1991 to challenge Alatorre for re-election to the City Council but ultimately deferred to GutierRuiz. The effort failed, but Pacheco did fieldwork for Gloria Molina, the councilwoman and county supervisor who also had dared to take on what had increasingly become an Eastside boys' club, and worked on Xavier Becerra's successful 1990 run for state Assembly, before going on to law school.
The coming of age for Pacheco's generation was crystallized in 1992 with the election of Becerra, a Stanford-educated lawyer, to succeed the legendary Edward Roybal in Congress.
A PBS documentary, Power, Politics and Latinos, followed the youthful and slender underdog Becerra as he campaigned against Alatorre-backed school-board member Leticia Quezada, an older and slightly heavy Mexican-born woman. In the wake of Becerra's victory came dozens of young, trim lawyers in his image, whose first or second jobs out of school were in elected office or other major policy positions.
Political analyst David Ayon, senior research associate at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, names Assemblyman-turned-U.S. Army Secretary Louis Caldera and California Latino Redistricting Coalition counsel Armando Duron as being among the first batch of graduates trying to replicate Becerra's success.
"Latino voters, especially parents, saw these golden boys as already successful and early representatives of their community," Ayon says. "For Anglo parents, they had the same appeal. Their qualifications validated them as being acceptably assimilated and American. Older politicians got into trouble, maybe with drugs or marital problems, but with this generation, just the fact of being young helps in a campaign. They were practically going door-to-door wearing their college sweater."
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