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LA Mayor and DNC chair Antonio Villaraigosa touts Democrats’ message in Tampa

AirTalk host Larry Mantle interviews Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 27, 2012.
AirTalk host Larry Mantle interviews Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 27, 2012.
Gina Delvac/KPCC

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Mitt Romney arrives in Tampa tonight for the Republican National Convention. His wife Ann and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey are the big highlights in tonight’s first batch of speeches. But it’s not just Republicans making the media rounds. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee showed up to do opposition interviews last night.

Better known to us the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa sat down with Spanish-language radio and AirTalk to hit back at GOP criticism of Obama’s handling of the economy.

Villaraigosa first extended his prayers to the Gulf Coast, and those awaiting impending hurricane, Isaac.

"Right now, Democrats and Republicans agree that priority number one is putting the country before the party, that the health and safety of the people who are in front of this growing storm have to be paramount," he started.

But according to Villaraigosa, similarities between both political parties ends there.

"There is a difference between these two parties, and yes the economy is tough, and that is one reason why this election is going to be so close. But when you're look at what they're proposing – end[ing] MediCare as we know it, cutting taxes to $5 trillion – it's not sustainable," he explained.

Democrats need to reform their image, Villaraigosa said, to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

"If you look at the Romney/Ryan budget, independent analysis, the congressional budget office and tax policies said it will take them 29 years to balance the budget," he continued, comparing budget proposals. "We're going to cut this deficit to the tune of $4 trillion over a decade, but we're also going to let the Bush tax cuts expire on the top 2 percent so we can reinvest that money in Medicare, Social Security and other programs."

Villaraigosa added that to be fiscally prudent also requires tackling public pension reform.

"Under my plan, you'd have to work five years longer than most people are working right now, because even though they could retire at 55, they're retiring about at 62. You work five years longer, and you'll make about 7-8 percent less. That's not a whole lot to ask to keep your pension sustainable going into the future," he said.

Many critics of Obama's presidency have pointed to the economic crisis as a failure. Villaraigosa countered that though the deficit is large, the Obama administration has grown 4 million jobs, besting job numbers during the 2008 Bush administration.

"This is the worst depression since the 1930s. It took us what, 12 years, 13 years to get out of that depression? We're getting out, if we keep with the president's proposals to cut spending but also to invest in infrastructure, invest in education, invest in R&D," he said.

Villaraigosa said the economy is a salient issue, but that's not all their party is focused on.

"Yes, it's true, that because of this economy we've got our work cut out for us. But this election isn't just about today, and it's not even about the next four years. It's about the future."


Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles

Frank Stoltze, KPCC Reporter