After eight years in office, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is due to step down, but he may have his eye on higher office (more on that in a bit).
Villaraigosa became the first Mexican-American to be elected in Los Angeles in more than 130 years. Highlights of Villaraigosa's mayoral tenure include the passage of the America Fast Forward bill — an initiative that allows Los Angeles to fast-track transportation projects — and his plan to wean the city off the use of coal completely by 2025.
Villaraigosa first ran for L.A. mayor in 2001 and was defeated in a runoff against James Hahn. Before he became mayor, Villaraigosa was a member of the California State Assembly, the Democratic leader of the Assembly, the Speaker of the California State Assembly and a member of the L.A. City Council.
Larry talks to Mayor Villaraigosa about what's next for the lifelong Angeleno.
For one, Villaraigosa made a definitive comment about his plans to run for California governor in the future:“You mentioned governor. Look, I believe in public service. I want to run for governor. In fact, I fully expect that I will," said Villaraigosa. "I’m going to tell you something. I will never have a job like this. This city has given me more than I could have ever hoped for."
At least one political consultant told KPCC that he didn't expect Villaraigosa to run for governor against Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to stand for re-election next year.
"He's not going to run against Jerry Brown," said political consultant Mike Shimpock, whose firm has worked for Villaraigosa. "I don't think Brown is beatable."
A Field Poll released in February found Brown's approval ratings at the highest level since he was elected. About 57 percent of voters approved of his performance. Only 31 percent disapproved.
Brown, 75, remains in good health. He says he underwent successful radiation treatment for early stage prostate cancer in January.
"My health is great," he told reporters earlier this year.
Villaraigosa, 60, likely knows any insurgent campaign against a fellow Democrat who is popular would be difficult. It would also anger the party — something he wants to avoid ahead of a 2018 run. Money is another problem.
"It would be difficult to raise money against Brown," Shimpock said. Brown is also well known in California: He served as governor once before, from 1975-1983, and his fundraising roots run deep.
Even in 2018, Villaraigosa could face a strong Democratic field of candidates. State Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Controller John Chiang are all possible candidates.
On whether he'll miss being mayor:
"I'm not going to miss the profile, but I am going to miss the people. There will never be a job ... . You mentioned governor. Look, I believe in public service. I want to run for governor. In fact, I fully expect that I will, but I’m going to tell you something. I will never have a job like this. This city has given me more than I could have ever hoped for. The people of this town gave me a shot when a lot of folks thought it was an impossible dream. I have no regrets. ... There's a bit of sadness on some levels, I guess, and nostalgia, but it's about the people."
On advice that he's given to incoming Mayor Eric Garcetti:
"Eric and I have known each other now for 12 years as colleagues. He was actually on a community advisory committee for me when I was in the state legislature, so we go way, way back. Was part of an advisory council when I ran for mayor in 2001. The one thing I have said to him is, don't let the Monday morning quarterbacks stop you from being bold. You've got to set a high bar. This is a great city, we've got to measure up to that city, and I think he's prepared to do that."
On how his personal life has been covered by the media:
"I took responsibility for the breakup [of his marriage], and if there was anything that I regret was the way I handled it. But I took responsibility, I never pushed back when you asked the tough questions. I'm very proud of the fact that I'm closer to my kids today than I ever had been and that both live with their dad, that Corina and I have a great relationship and a great friendship. As far as the other relationships, I did push back on that. The day that I spearheaded the passage of America Fast Forward, ... the newspaper of record did not put it in the newspaper; what they put was my breakup with my ex-girlfriend. I took umbrage with that. A great newspaper ought to be printing things that people care about, issues that people care about. So my breakup of my marriage, I understand that; the other stuff, come on, a little much."
On his plans for the immediate future:
"I'll do anything that the mayor, the governor, the City of Los Angeles asks me to do on their behalf. If I can promote the town that I was born and raised in and that my grandpa came to 100 years ago, I'm going to do it. I'm moving to Venice. I love that part of the city, and it's always been a great supporter of mine. I'm going to probably affiliate with a university or think tank, maybe do a little public speaking, since I have turned down a lot of requests over the years. Then I want to do a listening tour. I think we all want to restore the California dream, and I want to figure out how to do it."
On his love for Los Angeles:
"I believe in this town. I will always be an Angeleno in that I will always fight to reaffirm what I believe to be true: that in this century, L.A. is to the world what New York was in the 20th century and London in the 19th. We're the gateway to a rising China and Asia; we're a gateway to a rising Mexico and Latin America. Our diversity, our port, our airport, our people will make us the preeminent city in the world. I believe that."
Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles