Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Puts Another Leg Into National Politics

By Andra Lim

Antonio Villaraigosa continues to get cozy with the Obama Administration.

Tomorrow, Villaraigosa and White House big shots -- including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar -- will meet in Los Angeles with hundreds of local leaders to talk about issues significant to the Hispanic community, from immigration policy to healthcare.

The Hispanic Community Action Summit is supposed to provide a way for one of the fastest-growing segments of the electorate to shape public policy.

For Villaraigosa, it's another notch on his belt as he steps onto the national political stage. Analysts have noted for months that Villaraigosa is eyeing a cabinet seat as he finishes up a disappointing tenure as mayor.

The Obama Administration could gain from affiliation with Villaraigosa as they push to get Hispanics to the polls. But does Washington know who they're dealing with?

Villaraigosa with Obama in the White House Rose Garden - another out-of-town trip for the mayor.
Villaraigosa with Obama in the White House Rose Garden - another out-of-town trip for the mayor.

Critics point out that Villaragoisa spends most of his time preening in the public eye, talking to press or taking out-of-town publicity trips. In 2008, the Weekly reported that the mayor dedicated only 11 percent of his work hours to city business.

When Villaraigosa was appointed chair of the Democratic National Convention, Barbara O'Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento, told the Christian Science Monitor:

"(Villaraigosa) will attract Hispanic voters but also a lot of money by virtue of his relationship to business both in Los Angeles and internationally."

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, called Villaraigosa a "visionary" when she appeared on a local radio talk show Monday, the LA Daily News reports.

She clearly hadn't done her research and fumbled when the host pointed out Villaraigosa's spotty track record, from ethics violations to his fluffy work schedule.

Four years ago, Villaraigosa was listed as a potential candidate for Secretary of Labor or Housing and Urban Development -- perhaps because Obama was looking to appease Latino leaders who were disappointed that Gov. Bill Richardson lost out on Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton.

Villaraigosa said then that he wanted to focus on his reelection campaign and fixing LA's problems.

Giving Villaraigosa a cabinet seat now could add to Obama's political capital with Latinos. But the president might lose his credit with Angelenos.


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