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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Is a Cabinet post in the offing for Villaraigosa?

President Barack Obama is looking to fill out his Cabinet, but is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the short list?
President Barack Obama is looking to fill out his Cabinet, but is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the short list? Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the National Press Club Monday, ostensibly to talk about immigration reform. But the Mayor sounded more like he was auditioning for a job.

The rumors have been floating around for months: will Villaraigosa be invited to join the cabinet of the second Obama Administration?

Villaraigosa steps down this summer after two terms as mayor. At a luncheon for media and Latino leaders at the National Press Club, Villaraigosa said he’s aware of the abyss: "With each passing week I take another step toward what one wit would call the transition from Who’s Who to who’s he?"

Villaraigosa’s has already served as Speaker in the state Assembly. And he doesn’t seem much interested in running for Governor. When asked whether he’s been asked by the White House to take a Cabinet position, Villaraigosa gave his stock answer: "I don’t care to comment on any future job. I’m focused on the job I’ve got."

But throughout his speech, and immediately thereafter, Villaraigosa kept listing his résumé credits, saying his city was "safer than at any time since 1952, with a 40 percent drop in violent crime, 40 percent drop in homicides."

He touted his success at education reform, saying L.A. has doubled the number of successful schools at 800 and above on the academic performance index. And he touted his TV appearances during this trip: “Face the Nation” on Sunday; MSNBC Monday, plus an appearance on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.

Villaraigosa’s not the only one out there tooting his horn.

Hector Sanchez is Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, a coalition of groups lobbying the White House for three Latinos in the cabinet. With the departure of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary, Sanchez says that leaves one Latino: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. 

"We believe that the President is committed to diversity," said Sanchez, "but we’re a little bit worried."

Sanchez said three Latino Cabinet positions would be a fair representation of the Latino community in the nation and the right thing to do, "particularly after this election and the key role Latinos played." Latinos made up 10 percent of the voters in 2012, choosing Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a wide margin.

Sanchez says Villaraigosa is on his list of top Latino candidates for a Cabinet post, but there are only two vacancies: Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency.

And there’s a distraction that has certainly entered into any White House vetting process: a picture of Villaraigosa at the recent opening of a Baja nightclub – tweeted by celebrity bad boy Charlie Sheen. Sanchez sighed: "We focus on accomplishment and the serious work of all the candidates, and obviously the Mayor has other extensive lists of successes. Those kind of issues I prefer not to comment on."

Villaraigosa said Charlie Sheen is a constituent. As to what the mayor was thinking when he posed with Sheen, he said he's answered it "again and again and again. I have nothing else to say."

President Obama, meanwhile, defended his Cabinet choices Monday, saying at a press conference he is “proud” that in his first four years he had “as diverse, if not a more diverse” Cabinet than any in history.

Villaraigosa returned to LA Monday night. He returns to DC Friday morning to push for gun control at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting. The weekend is full of more national television appearances. He’ll stick around for Monday’s inauguration before heading back to City Hall.

After that? Villaraigosa says he expects to be in Washington quite frequently the next few months.

Correction: The earlier version of this story suggested the Mayor was staying in Washington all week. In fact, he flew back to LA Monday, returning to DC on Friday.

 

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