Months of speculation came to an end today, when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took advantage of a national TV platform to tell Angelenos (and anyone interested) that out of love for the city of angels, he will forgo a chance to run for governor in 2010 and instead shepherd L.A. through its current fiscal crisis.
Appearing on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” with Wolf Blitzer, Villaraigosa said he could not leave Los Angeles “in the midst of a crisis.”
The mayor, who will be sworn into a second four-year term on July 1, said it was an “agonizing decision.”
“The reason why I didn’t early on make a decision one way or another was because, as I said, this city’s given me so much, I didn’t want to walk away,” he said. “But … the challenges of the state are so great, as well. I was speaker of the Assembly, I have a great deal of support in the Legislature and throughout the state, but this is about the city I love.”
Los Angeles is facing a remarkable $530 million deficit and may be forced to layoff and furlough large numbers of city workers. The mayor’s “Partnership for Schools,” Los Angeles Unified School District schools under his direction as part of a six-year experiment, are also facing huge challenges as a result of a billion dollar plus LAUSD budget shortfall.
“I said to Los Angeles four years ago to dream with me. I said we were going to take on the many challenges that we face in the city — public schools and public safety, the issue of the environment. I said that we were going to do everything we could to come together as a city, and I can’t leave this city in the middle of a crisis.’’
Villaraigosa said his youngest child, who is 16 year old, was also a factor in his decision.
“She’s the apple of my eye and she’s got two more years of high school and then she’s gone, and I don’t want to be campaigning for a year and then leading the state in Sacramento and my little precious is finishing up her high school,” he said.
Since winning re-election with what pundits said was a disappointing 55 percent vote, Villaraigosa had played coy when asked about his aspirations of becoming California’s governor.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve got many challenges in this city. In a time when unemployment is at 12 1/2 percent (in Los Angeles), a 55 percent approval isn’t so bad,’’ he said. “But I recognize that I’ve got a lot of work to do … and I’ve got to do a better job even than the job that we’ve done over the last four years.”
Villaraigosa declined to say whom he would back in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
“In term of who I like — I’ve not focused on that. I’m focused on my job and the challenges that we’re facing, and there’s plenty of time to weigh in on that race,” he said.
City News Service reports used in this story.