Fresh from his protracted flirtation with a U.S. Senate race, ex-L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa kicked off a statewide "listening and learning tour" in Fresno today, as he prepares for a presumed run for governor in 2018.
Villaraigosa stopped by the Fresno Bee editorial board, where he pitched himself as a pragmatist who can focus on solving big problems.
The former mayor bowed out of the race to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer last month, saying that his heart belongs in California, not Washington. Instead, he said he would "continue my efforts to make California a better place to live, work and raise a family." That's about as close as one could get to declaring for governor without actually declaring it.
Since leaving the mayor's office in June 2013, Villaraigosa had been largely out of sight. But since his extended contemplation of the Senate race, he has been getting out more. A couple of weeks ago, he was in Palm Springs for a conference for Latino leaders to learn about water issues.
In his speech, he sounded very much like a candidate.
"We've got to think bigger than a $7 billion bond," he said, according to the Desert Sun. "We've got to do a lot more."
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In Fresno today, Villaraigosa talked about water issues, talked up charter schools and expressed support for high-speed rail.
“I’m not an ideologue,” he told the Bee. “I’m for ideas that work.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared his candidacy for governor last month, and raised $727,000 in his first two weeks. Though the race is still three years away, Newsom said he preferred not to procrastinate. Earlier, Newsom quickly announced he was not running for Boxer's Senate seat, saying "it's always better to be candid than coy."
Villaraigosa has taken the opposite approach. He took six weeks to decide not to run for Senate. Asked today about his intentions in the governor's race, he demurred, saying "the last time I looked there was no opening."