Posted: 5/19/2005 2:56:30 AM EST
Viva La Raza!
Antonio Villaraigosa Elected Mayor
Becomes First Hispanic Mayor In 133 Years
Will Be Sworn Into Office On July 1
May 18, 2005 6:09 pm US/Pacific
LOS ANGELES (AP) Affirming the growing political clout of Latinos, Antonio Villaraigosa became the first Hispanic elected mayor in more than a century in a race that upended assumptions that racial friction could again deny him the mayoralty.
The barrio-bred Villaraigosa discouraged references to his ethnicity and ran as a racial bridge-builder, defeating Mayor James Hahn by an unexpectedly wide margin, 59 percent to 41 percent.
"I've said to people, 'I'm an American of Mexican descent and I intend to be a mayor for all Los Angeles,"' Villaraigosa said Wednesday while visiting a vocational school. "In this diverse city, that's the only way it can work."
The victory came years after Hispanics became the dominant population group in the city, although their political force at City Hall lagged their burgeoning numbers.
"Clearly this is an opportunity at the very least for a new kind of multiracial coalition. This is different -- Latinos in the lead with African-Americans playing a key role with white liberals and Jews," said Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"It's a different kind of pecking order," he said.
After a morning meeting with police Chief William Bratton, Villaraigosa appeared at the vocational school, where he said the election suggested the depth of racial divides in the city were overstated.
When he is sworn in July 1, Villaraigosa will become the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, when the city was a frontier outpost of about 5,000 residents.
After Hahn won 80 percent of the black vote in their 2001 race, Villaraigosa's advisers recognized that they needed to assure that community that their interests would not be overlooked by a Villaraigosa mayoralty, despite a history of black-brown rivalries over jobs, housing and political power.
Villaraigosa spent hours at black churches and walking streets in South Los Angeles, which has a large black population. And he was able to showcase a prominent list of black supporters who turned their backs on Hahn, including basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.
As the campaign wound down, Villaraigosa pledged, over and over, to "be mayor for everyone."
Hahn, the scion of a prominent political family, becomes the first Los Angeles mayor in 32 years to be bounced from office.
Asked about the election of a Hispanic mayor, Hahn said, "It's full circle for this city," apparently alluding to Los Angeles' last Latino mayor, Cristobal Aguilar, who left office in 1872.
"Once you recognize that you're a public servant, that means you're someone's employee," Hahn told reporters Wednesday at his campaign headquarters. "The employer makes hiring and firing decisions, and I accept that decision."
Villaraigosa's election marked a personal milestone in a story that has seen him rise from the edge of poverty to the halls of political power. Raised by a single mother in a hardscrabble Los Angeles neighborhood, he dropped out of high school and once sported a tattoo, "Born to Raise Hell." He survived a scrape with the law after being arrested in a restaurant brawl.
Inspired by a teacher to resume his education, he eventually earned a law degree and was elected to the state Assembly in 1994, where he quickly became speaker. Forced out by term limits in 2000, he ran unsuccessfully against Hahn for mayor in 2001 then was elected to the City Council in 2003.
"I stand here today because people believed in me," he said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
But like Hahn before him, Villaraigosa's challenge will be uniting the diverse and often competing groups that call the nation's second-largest city home. Now mayor-elect, Villaraigosa must find solutions to the problems he pointed to in the campaign -- gang crime that terrorizes poor neighborhoods, a lack of affordable housing and worsening traffic congestion.
"The challenge isn't getting elected now, the challenge is governing -- how is he going to do this when he is under tremendous pressure from his own community, plus African Americans who abandoned Hahn?" Gilliam noted.
Councilman Bernard Parks, the former black police chief ousted with Hahn's blessing, said Villaraigosa's work would be "a day-to-day process. I don't think it's one of these things where you say, `Today, from now on, I declare you shall work together."'
With the Hispanic population ballooning statewide, a demographic shift has been under way for years. California's public schools became majority nonwhite in 1988. In 1998, the state elected its first Hispanic to a statewide office since 1871, when Cruz Bustamante became lieutenant governor. The speaker of the state Assembly is Hispanic, as is the Los Angeles city attorney.
The bruising runoff between Villaraigosa and Hahn was a rematch of the 2001 election in which Hahn rallied to win his first term. Villaraigosa came back strong this year, nearly ousting Hahn in the March primary.
Hahn was turned out after a lackluster first term tainted by corruption allegations at City Hall. Unable to keep his campaign focused on Los Angeles' falling crime rate and rising job growth, he was also hurt by a stiff, reserved demeanor that many viewed as listlessness.
"People want substance rather than style. I think they want results rather than rhetoric," Hahn, 54, said after voting early Tuesday. "You know, maybe I have a charisma deficit disorder, but I've done the job people have elected me to do."
On a victory lap around the city Wednesday, Villaraigosa got a taste of what his new job will be all about.
Shortly before a stopover at Taft High School, multiple fights among students brought dozens of police officers to the campus. The situation was under control before Villaraigosa arrived. Los Angeles Unified School District Roy Romer said about a dozen students were involved in the fights and he did not think it was a racial situation.
"If there is a problem there, I am going to be a mayor that doesn't hide under a rock," Villaraigosa said.
If LA/Cali was not on the fast track to being Mexico North, then now it is...
Viva la reconquista!
Good for him!!!
He probably would'nt have won if it weren't for the illegals voting illegaly, Hell I'ts RPK they probably let them vote legally even if their illegal, whatever.
Where is that billboard pic?
(the one that shows LA as being a part of Mexico)
Shit, CA is years behind Miami & South Florida as a whole. There there's entire school districts who teach in Spanish only, never speak English in the whole school, all day long. WTF is up with that shit?
Wonder what the new mayor's stand is on illegals?