For­mer mayor wary on Dems’ fu­ture

An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa says his party is ‘stuck in’ the past, Clin­ton faces a tight race.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Michael Fin­negan michael.fin­negan@la­times.com

For­mer Los An­ge­les Mayor An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa, a close ally of Hil­lary Clin­ton, voiced con­cern Fri­day that the Demo­cratic Party was “kind of stuck in last year,” say­ing he ex­pected the for­mer sec­re­tary of State to face “a very close elec­tion” for pres­i­dent.

“I’m not sure we’re a party of enough new ideas,” Vil­laraigosa told sev­eral dozen fi­nance ex­ec­u­tives at a pri­vate eq­uity con­fer­ence in Santa Mon­ica.

“I think both par­ties kind of are mar­ried to their con­stituen­cies and their pow­er­ful in­ter­ests, and they’re un­will­ing to chal­lenge them in the way I did as mayor,” he said.

Vil­laraigosa, who clashed with teach­ers unions as mayor, did not elab­o­rate on what he meant by “stuck in last year.”

But the con­text — an­swer­ing a ques­tion on the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race — sug­gested his fo­cus was more on Clin­ton than on Pres­i­dent Obama or Congress. Vil­laraigosa cam­paigned ex­ten­sively for Clin­ton in her los­ing battle for the 2008 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Ul­ti­mately, he sug­gested, Clin­ton will pre­vail, even if she en­dures “a lot of noise” in a con­tested race for the party nom­i­na­tion.

Democrats who might brave the long odds and chal­lenge Clin­ton in­clude for­mer Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley and for­mer Sen. Jim Webb of Vir­ginia.

Hand­i­cap­ping the crowded field of Repub­li­cans vy­ing for pres­i­dent, Vil­laraigosa de­scribed for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as “the most for­mi­da­ble.”

“But I’m not sure he can get out of the pri­mary, just be­cause that pri­mary vote has gone so far to the right,” Vil­laraigosa said.

The one­time state As­sem­bly speaker called Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker “in­ter­est­ing,” say­ing he “ap­peals to the estab­lish­ment, but also to more rad­i­cal el­e­ments of the Repub­li­can Party.”

He also pre­dicted that Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio will be “stronger than peo­ple think.”

“He’s a smart guy,” Vil­laraigosa said. “He’s tal­ented. But I think he’ll have the same prob­lem that Jeb Bush does in terms of get­ting out of the pri­mary.”

Vil­laraigosa, who raised mil­lions of dol­lars from donors with an in­ter­est in public busi­ness when he held of­fice, said the huge sums of money that White House con­tenders from both par­ties are rais­ing were “a dis­tor­tion and a per­ver­sion of the Demo­cratic process.”

“The in­ter­ests end up kind of stop­ping us from do­ing the things we got to do,” he said.

Vil­laraigosa’s ap­pear­ance at the Small Busi­ness In­vestor Al­liance gath­er­ing also gave him a plat­form to ex­plore themes of a po­ten­tial gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign.

He boasted of rup­tur­ing his long­time al­liance with teach­ers unions and took credit for turn­ing around some of the city’s most un­der­per­form­ing schools in Watts and on the East­side.

He also took credit for dou­bling the size of the rail tran­sit net­work in L.A. and ex­pressed sup­port for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build a high-speed rail line be­tween L.A. and San Fran­cisco.

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