DNC: Who Is Villaraigosa?
He fights for transportation:
Upon his election in 2006, Villaraigosa made it clear that he wanted to improve public transportation in Los Angeles. That he did: the city extended its subway system all the way to Santa Monica under the mantra of having a subway line to the sea. Another victory came last July, when Villaraigosa lobbied Congress to provide billions in federal funds for America Fast Forward: the completion of 30 years worth of L.A. transit projects in 10 years. Congress agreed, but doubts persist whether they allocated enough funds for the mayor's transit dreams to come true.
He tried to fight for trees:
Back when he first took office, the mayor set an audacious goal for the city: plant 1 million trees over the course of several years. Yet city has yet to release the exact number of trees that have been planted since the program’s inception, leading to speculation over the years that perhaps Villaraigosa is far from his goal. By contrast, New York City, which started a similar program a year later, has planted around 600,000 trees (with no speculation regarding their numbers).
He's got a compelling life story:
There’s no doubt that the mayor worked his way up to the top. Born in East Los Angeles, Villaraigosa’s (then Antonio Villar) father left him at the age of 5, and he briefly dropped out of high school before the wayward teenager pulled his life together and worked his way towards a high school diploma. At the age of 15, Villar joined Cezar Chavez in a grape boycott. His interest in Chicano rights continued throughout college, where he led UCLA’s MEChA chapter.
He's also got a lot of skeletons in his closet:
Villaraigosa ran into trouble a couple years ago after news broke that, despite the city's budget problems, the mayor had accepted thousands of dollars worth of concert and sporting tickets under the table. The mayor also faced allegations of playing favorites after a 2009 L.A. Times article exposed that Villaraigosa's daughter had received a $68,000 salary from Californian tax-payers doing field work for Democrats. To be fair, the article alleged that many politicians in California were quietly practicing nepotism, and that Villaraigosa was hardly alone in the debacle. Then again, Villaraigosa will have to address these allegations in front of the American people if he’s vying for bigger and greater prospects. And then there's the affair.
Villaraigosa is no stranger to public attention. The two-term mayor has made countless appearances on cable T.V. and has developed a reputation amongst his critics as someone that revels too much in the limelight. Nevertheless, the mayor makes good use of his time on camera through biting jabs at Republicans. "I take on stupid wherever it exists," Villaraigosa told the L.A. Times. Fox News' Chris Wallace asked him to elaborate, to which he did in usual form:
Reach reporter Aaron Liu here.
Follow him on Twitter.