As he sizes up the race for U.S. Senate, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought advice from his successor, Eric Garcetti, during a dinner last Thursday, according to two sources.
Villaraigosa has been consulting widely as he decides whether to jump into the race to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer, who announced her retirement on Jan. 8.
Garcetti quickly took himself out of the running for the seat, and since then he has been hinting that Villaraigosa should run.
“I hope somebody from Los Angeles does run,” Garcetti said on KABC-TV.
So far, the only announced candidate is Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is from San Francisco. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who is also from San Francisco, is also mulling a run.
Garcetti did not pledge his support to Villaraigosa, according to the sources. “There's no deal,” one source said. Garcetti also spoke on the phone with Harris after she made her announcement, and plans to meet with her soon.
Garcetti is widely considered to be a potential statewide candidate in 2018, either for governor or for Senate, should Dianne Feinstein decide to retire. Villaraigosa is also considered a potential candidate in 2018, most likely for governor.
Garcetti and Villaraigosa are not exactly friends, but they do share common political interests. Both are from Los Angeles, with a strong base of support among Latino voters. If they ran against each other, they would split their base, which would be in neither man's interest.
Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom faced a similar dilemma in Northern California. Because of their overlapping bases, it was generally understood that they would not run against each other, and Newsom withdrew from the Senate race before Harris announced.
From Garcetti's point of view, it might be better for Villaraigosa to run for Boxer's seat in 2016. That would likely take Villaraigosa out the picture for 2018.
Whether that's also in Villaraigosa's interest is something he's now trying to figure out. Villaraigosa is seeking input on what he could achieve as a Senator, as well as assessing the political matchup.
Harris would be a formidable opponent, and has less baggage than Newsom, who is expected to run for governor. But the longer that Villaraigosa stays out of public office, the more his credentials fade in comparison with those of his potential rivals.
“He’s looking at it really seriously, but he also understands what a tough race it will be politically and personally,” said one person who spoke to Villaraigosa recently. “He has a very clear-eyed view of the challenges.”