Antonio Ramon Villaraigosa became the first hispanic mayor of Los Angeles in 130 years. He was elected on May 17t, 2005 in a runoff election.
Antonio Ramon Villaraigosa was born in 1953 in Los Angeles. He graduated UCLA in 1977. He then went to the Peoples College of Law where he received a law degree. He became involved in the ACLU. In 1994 he was elected to the California State Assembly. In 1998 he became the speaker of the Assembly.
In 2001 Villaraigosa ran for Mayor of Los Angeles but lost. In 2003 he won a seat on the City Council. He ran again in 2005 coming in first in the Democratic primary. On May 17, 2005, he won the runoff with 58.7% of the vote. On July 1 he was sworn in as the 41st mayor of Los Angeles. He became the first Hispanic mayor since 1872.
Villaraigosa remained mayor until July of 2013. His legacy includes improving some of LA failing schools and extending LA’s mass transit network.
The Four Latino Mayors of Los Angeles
For the first seven decades of its existence, Los Angeles was guided by Spanish and Mexican administrators. However, after the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), a series of Anglo-American and French Mayors were elected to office, starting with Stephen C. Foster, a Yale University graduate who had only arrived in Los Angeles in 1847 (as an interpreter for the Mormon Battalion).
However, since 1848 and the beginning of American control of Los Angeles, four Latinos have served as Mayor of Los Angeles. The first three mayors had the benefit of having served as administrators or council members of the City before the American occupation.
Antonio Francisco (Franco) Coronel
(May 3, 1853 ? May 4, 1854)
In 1853, Antonio Francisco Coronel became Mayor of Los Angeles. Born on October 21, 1817 in Mexico City, Antonio had come to California with his parents in 1834. Antonio?s father, Jose Ygnacio Franco Coronel, had been born in Mexico City around 1795.
Ygnacio Coronel joined the Spanish army and very quickly rose to the rank of corporal of the cavalry (1814). In 1802 he had been married to Maria Josefa Francisca Romero, a native of Toluca. In 1837, Ygnacio brought his family to Los Angeles, where he started a new life as a civilian. Before his death, Ygnacio taught school, ran a small store, served as secretary of the Ayuntamiento, and enjoyed agricultural pursuits.
Antonio Francisco (more commonly referred to as Antonio Franco) was 17 years old when he first came to California. In 1838, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Tribunals for the City of Los Angeles. And in 1843, he became a Justice of the Peace in the City (the equivalent of Mayor at that time).
When the threat of war loomed, Antonio entered the military to serve his state. He served as a Captain and Sergeant-at-arms in the Mexican Artillery and took part in military operations against the United States in 1846-47 during the Mexican-American War. Once the war had ended, however, Antonio started a career in the service of his new constituency and served as County Assessor in 1850-1851.
In California?s first census under American rule, 32-year-old Antonio F. Coronel was tallied in the large household of his parents, Ignacio and Francisca Coronel. His profession was listed as merchant and he owned real estate valued at $8,000.
In the years to come, Antonio Franco Coronel would become very active in Los Angeles politics. He served as a member of the Los Angeles Council for several years between 1854 and 1867 and as State Treasurer from 1867 to 1871.
On December 18, 1873, Antonio was married at the Los Angeles Plaza Church to Mariana Williamson, a native of San Antonio, Texas. Antonio was 55 years old and Mariana was 23 years old at the time of their marriage. Mariana was the daughter of Nelson Williamson, a native of Maine, and of Gertrude Roman, a Mexicano Tejano woman from Los Brazos river area. At the age of nine, Mrs. Coronel?s father had brought Mariana to California, where her fluency in both English and Spanish earned her respect among many of her neighbors.
Even after his retirement from politics, Antonio F. Coronel retired to his orange orchard to concentrate on agricultural pursuits, earning great respect from his fellow Angelinos until his death on April 17, 1894 at the age of 77.
Acting Mayor (September 22, 1856 ? October 4, 1856)
The second Latino Mayor of Los Angeles during the American Era was Manuel Requena, who, as Los Angeles Council President, briefly took office as Acting Mayor.
Manuel Requena was born around 1802 in the Yucatan, Mexico, and came to California by sea, after leaving the Mexican port of Guaymas (Sonora) in 1834. A trader by profession, Se?or Requena sold his vessel on arriving in California and immediately became involved in Los Angeles politics. Not long after his arrival in his adopted homeland, Se?or Requena was elected to serve as Alcalde of Mexican Los Angeles in 1836-1837 and 1844.
In California, Manuel Requena was married to Gertrudis Guirado. In 1850, after the American occupation, 50-year-old Manuel Requena was tallied in the Federal Census. A native of Mexico, Requena stated that he owned $14,500 of real estate. Living with Manuel was his 32-year-old wife, Gertrudes, and their four sons: Mattias, Juan, Geronimo and Jose.
During the American Period, Manuel Requena wielded the most influence as a member of the Los Angeles Common Council, where he served several terms (1850-54, 1856, 1864-68). In the 1870 census, Manuel Requena was listed as a 68-year-old retired merchant, who owned $20,000 of real estate and $3,000 of personal estate. His wife, Gertrudes, was 40 years old by this time. One son was still living with them at that time. Well respected by his peers and neighbors, Mayor Requena died in 1876 at the age of 72.
(May 10, 1866 ? December 7, 1868,
December 9, 1870 ? December 5, 1872)
The third Latino Mayor of Los Angeles was Cristobal Aguilar who served two separate terms as Mayor. Cristobal Aguilar was born in 1816 as the son of Jose Maria Aguilar and Maria Ygnacia Elizalde. The Aguilar family had played an important role in the California military and politics for several decades by the time that Cristobal came of age.
Cristobal Aguilar was married to Maria Dolores Yorba at San Gabriel Mission on October 31, 1848. Maria Dolores was a descendant of the famous Yorba family of Orange County. In the early years of the American Period, Cristobal Aguilar made a name for himself as one of the most visible members of the Los Angeles Common Council, serving several terms (1850, 1855-56, 1858-59, 1861-62).
Cristobal served as Mayor from 1866 to 1868. As Mayor, Aguilar signed an ordinance in 1866 to set aside five acres of land as "a Public Square or Plaza, for the use and benefit of the Citizens in common." This public square is now known as Pershing Square.
Then, in the 1870 census, 56-year-old Cristoval Aguilar was tallied in the Federal Census as a resident of Los Angeles Township. When asked for his occupation, Mr. Aguilar told the census taker that he was ?Ex-Mayor of Los Angeles.? He proudly pointed out that he was a native of California and noted that he owned $1,600 of real estate and $200 of personal estate.
Cristobal?s wife, Dolores, was 38 at the time of the census and was also a native of California. Living with them were four children: Librada (19 years old), Jose M. (17), Matias (12), Guadalupe (10) and Rosa (7). It also appears that Cristobal?s 68-year-old mother Maria lived with them.
Cristobal Aguilar was also elected Mayor from 1871 to 1872. When Aguilar became Mayor, there were less than 6,000 residents in the City. When the city council proposed selling off the city's water rights to bring in additional revenue, Aguilar vetoed the proposal. If Aguilar had not used his power of veto, Los Angeles would have lost control of its water rights, leading to serious problems at a later date.
When Aguilar was elected in 1870, the Latino voter registration was about 22%. When he ran for reelection, however, he was defeated by an Anglo opponent, who made an issue of his poor English. In the years following his term as Mayor, he also served as Deputy Zanjero. Aguilar was a great believer in education and made certain that all of his children received a good education. Living in quiet retirement during his later years, Cristobal Aguilar died suddenly on April 13, 1886 at his residence on Water Street.
(2005 - )
In his second run for Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa defeated the incumbent Mayor, James Hahn on May 17, 2005. With this accomplishment, City Councilperson Villaraigosa became the first Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles since Cristobal Aguilar left office on December 5, 1872.
Antonio Villaraigosa was born on January 23, 1953 in East Los Angeles as Antonio Ramon Villar in Los Angeles, the son of an immigrant father by the same name and Natalia Acosta Delgado. Antonio?s grandfather had moved to Los Angeles from Mexico sometime around 1903. He built a successful produce business, which allowed him to put his two daughters in private school and buy a nice home on the Eastside. But the Depression affected this family as it did other families. Antonio?s grandfather lost his wife and his daughters soon ended up in foster care.
According to the 1930 Federal Census, a 42-year-old Peter Acosta was tallied as a Merchant working in a Wholesale Market, living in the 9th Ward of Los Angeles. His wife, Rebecca, was 30 years old, and his daughter Natalia was not yet two years old. The census states that Peter had come to the United States in 1906 and that Rebecca had arrived in 1916.
Eventually, Natalia Villaraigosa's mother, Natalia Delgado, was separated from her sister and moved from one foster home to another. Eventually, she married Antonio Villar, a butcher and taxi driver from Mexico City.
Antonio Ramon Villar, Junior, was the oldest son of Antonio, Senior and Natalia. However, when Antonio was still in kindergarten, his parents were divorced. Although her grew up in a poor household, he became dedicated to improving his lot in life and became a labor lawyer. Villaraigosa has stated that his favorite role model was his mother, Natalia Delgado, ?a woman of indomitable spirit who never stopped believing in me.?
Unfortunately, Natalia Acosta Delgado died on February 5, 1991. Three years later, in 1994, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected as the representative of the 45th District to the California Assembly. He took on positions of leadership and became Assembly Majority Floor Leader in 1997. In 1998, Villaraigosa was elected to serve as Speaker of the Assembly, succeeding Cruz Bustamante.
Antonio was married to Corina Raigosa in 1987. After this marriage, Antonio and Corina combined their surnames, taking on the single surname Villaraigosa.
Assemblyperson Villaraigosa ran for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001 but was defeated by a margin of 8% by his fellow Democrat, James Hahn, in the run-off election. In 2003, he defeated incumbent Councilman Nick Pacheco to win a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, representing the 14th District.
Having won election held on May 17, 2005, Mayor Villaraigosa?s story is just beginning.
Huber Howe Bancroft, ?Register of Pioneer Inhabitants of California, 1542 to 1848? (Los Angeles: Dawson?s Book Shop, 1964).
J. M. Guinn, ?Historical and Biographical Record of Southern California? (Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1902).
Rosanna Mah, ?Antonio Villariagosa (from LA Independent). Online:
Marie E. Northrop, ?Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California, 1769-1850.? Two volumes (Burbank, California: Southern California Genealogical Society, 1984).
William A. Spalding, ?History and Reminiscences of Los Angeles city and County, California? (Los Angeles: J. r. Finnell & Sons Publishing Company)
The Mayors of Los Angeles
As you will see in the following list, many of the early Mayors of Los Angeles were natives of Mexico in particular many of them came from Sinaloa, Sonora and Jalisco. However, when Los Angeles evolved from a Spanish town to a Mexican town in 1821/22, many of the Mayors / Alcalde?s were native-born Angelinos, whose parents had come from Mexico. Many of them were the sons of wealthy landowners who had received land grants for their military service. The following list gives small amounts of information about some of the Chief Executives of Los Angeles in the Olden Days.
1781 - 1786 Jos? Vicente Feliz, Comisionado (area military commissioner),
Corporal Jose Vicente Feliz, a veteran of the Anza Expedition of 1776, was one of the soldiers assigned to guard the Pueblo of Los Angeles in its early years. In 1787, Governor Fages appointed Feliz as Comisionado of the Los Angeles Pueblo, giving him the powers of Mayor and Judge. For his service, Vicente Feliz was granted 6,677 acres, which became El Rancho de Los Feliz. Feliz was born in Alamos, Sonora sometime around 1741.
1786-1788 ? Alcalde Jos? Vanegas. Jos? Vanegas was born about 1753 in Real de Bolanos, Jalisco. He had enlisted as a settler in Sinaloa in 1780 and arrived in Los Angeles in 1781 as a 28-year-old Indian. He was a shoemaker by trade. He became the first Alcalde of Los Angeles.
1789-1790 ? Jos? Sinova was a blacksmith from Mexico City who married Mar?a Gertrudis Boj?rquez, a mestiza from Villa de Sinaloa.
1790- 1793 ? Mariano de la Luz Verdugo, a native of San Xavier, Baja California, came to California in the 1769 expedition and, for the next two decades, served at various presidios in California. Mariano retired to Los Angeles around 1787 and served as Alcalde of the Pueblo from 1790 until 1793. In 1784, Corporal Verdugo was awarded a 36,403-acre land grant, one of the largest in Los Angeles County.
1793-1795 ? Juan Francisco Reyes was a mulato from Zapotl?n el Grande in Jalisco. Reyes became the original owner of the San Fernando Rancho, where he raised his cattle. Juan Francisco Reyes is regarded by many as the first Black Mayor of Los Angeles.
1796 ? Jos? Vanegas (2nd term)
1797 - 1798 Manuel Arellanes was a weaver from Puebla. He came to California with Anza in 1775/76 and served as a soldier for many years. He retired from the military in 1786 and moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a weaver.
1798-1799 ? Guillermo Cota was the owner of Rancho Los Cerritos. He was born in 1768 in Loreto, Baja California.
1799-1800 ? Francisco Serrano, a native of Villa de Sastago, Aragon, Spain. He served for many years in the Spanish military.
1800-1802 ? Joaquin Higuera was a mestizo farmworker from Villa de Sinaloa. Joaquin served as a soldier at the San Diego Presidio as early as 1775, but retired to the Pueblo around 1790.
1802 ? 1809 ? Mariano Verdugo (second term)
1810-1811 ? Francisco Avila was a farmworker from Villa de Sinaloa. He was the son of Cornelio Avila and his wife Isabel Urquidez who came to Los Angeles in 1783 from El Fuerte, Sinaloa. Francisco built ?La Casa de los Avilas? ? located on Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles ? in 1818, now regarded as the oldest building in Los Angeles.
1811 - 1812 Manuel Guti?rrez was a native of Spain.
1812-1816 ? Guillermo Soto, as Comisionado, assumed the same responsibilities of an alcalde
1816 - 1819 Antonio Mar?a Lugo was the son of the famous soldier Francisco Salvador Lugo, who was one of the first soldiers to stand guard at the Los Angeles Pueblo in the 1780s. Although his family was from Villa de Sinaloa, Antonio Mar?a was born in 1775 at the San Antonio de Padua Mission near Monterey. Antonio had arrived in the Pueblo as a retired soldier in 1809 and received a land grant of 29,514 acres of land south of the pueblo as a reward for his 17 years of service in the Spanish military.
1819 - 1822 Jos? Anastasio Avila was the son of Cornelio Avila and his wife Isabel Urquidez, who came to Los Angeles in 1783 from El Fuerte, Sinaloa. He was the brother of Francisco who had served as Alcalde earlier in 1810-1811. He also served in other positions of authority during the Pueblo?s early decades.
Mexican Los Angeles
1822-1824 ? Manuel Gutierrez (second term).
1824 ? Guillermo Cota (second term)
1824 ? Encarnacion Urquides
1826 ? Jos? Antonio Carrillo
1826-1827 ? Jos? Mar?a Claudio Lopez was born around 1767 in Real de Santana, Baja California. He settled in Los Angeles in the 1780s and was involved in local politics.
1827-1828 ? Guillermo Cota (third term)
1828-1829 ? Jos? Antonio Carrillo (second term)
1829 ? 1830 ? Guillermo Soto (second term)
1830-1831 ? Tiburcio Tapia. Tiburcio was a member of the famous Tapia family that owned a great deal of land around present-day Malibu.
1831-1832 ? Jos? Vicente Anastacio Sanchez was born at the San Gabriel Mission in 1785, but both of his parents were from Alamos, Sonora. Vicente was a prominent figure in Mexican Los Angeles, but also a controversial figure.
1832-1833 ? Manuel Antonio Fernando Dominguez ? Manuel served in various positions of authority in Los Angeles and San Pedro.
1833-1834 Jos? Antonio Carrillo (third term)
1835-1836 ? Francisco Xavier Alvarado. Born around 1756 in Loreto Presidio, Baja California, Francisco Xavier Alvarado served in the military during the latter part of the Eighteenth Century. In retirement, he made his home in Los Angeles where he served as both Comisionado and Sargento Encargado.
1837 ? Jos? Sepulveda ? Jose Loreto Sepulveda was born in 1815 at the San Gabriel Mission. With his brother, Juan Sepulveda, he was a grantee of Rancho Los Palos Verdes in 1846. He held various positions of authority in the Pueblo during the 1840s.
1839-1840 ? Tiburcio Tapia & Jose Sepulveda (served jointly as First and Second Alcalde). Tiburcio Tapia was a prominent merchant who received a 13,000-acre tract called the Rancho Cucamonga from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado on March 3, 1839.
Office of Alcalde Abolished. Los Angeles then governed by two Jueces de Paz (Justices of Peace)
1841 ? Ignacio Palomares & Ignacio Alvarado
Ignacio Mar?a Palomares was born near the San Fernando Mission in 1811, but his father was from San Jos? Canelas, Durango. Ignacio received the large Azusa and San Jos? land grants in eastern Los Angeles, in the area of present-day Pomona. He served in many capacities at Los Angeles: Juez de Campo, Regidor, Juez de Paz, Elector, and Assembly member.
1842 ? Manuel Dominguez & Jose Sepulveda ? Juan Jose Sepulveda was the owner of Rancho Santa Ana (in Orange County).
1843 ? Manuel Dominguez & Antonio F. Coronel
The Office of Alcalde was restored in 1844, with two men serving as First Alcalde and Second Alcalde.
1844 ? Manual Requena & Tiburcio Tapia
1845 ? Vicente Sanchez & Juan Sepulveda ? Vicente Sanchez was the owner of Rancho La Cienega O? Paso de la Tijera. Juan Capistrano Sepulveda had been born in 1814 at the San Gabriel Mission. Born into a politically active family, Juan was a grantee with Jos? Loreto Sepulveda of Palos Verdes in 1846. After the American occupation, he served as Los Angeles Supervisor and as County Assessor during the 1850s.
1846 ? Juan Gallardo & Jose L Sepulveda.
1847 ? Jose Salazar & Enrique Avila
1848 ? Ignacis Palomores & Jose Sepulveda
American Los Angeles
1848-1850 ? Stephen C. Foster. Foster graduated from Yale University in 1840. After practicing medicine in Missouri, he arrived in Los Angeles in 1847 as an interpreter for the Mormon Battalion. He was serving as Mayor at the time the U.S. took over Los Angeles and was elected to the City Council in 1850.
1850-1851 ? Alpheus P. Hodges
1851-1852 ? Benjamin D. Wilson. Born in Tennessee in 1811, Benjamin D. Wilson was originally a fur trapper by trade. Wilson arrived in California in the 1840s and became a prominent merchant and landowner. Wilson organized the first Los Angeles Police Force. He was later elected to the California State Senate. Mount Wilson was named for him.
John G. Nichols. Nichols served as Mayor twice. He was a businessman and builder and lived in the first brick house to built in Los Angeles. His son was the first American child to be born in Los Angeles.
1853-1854 ? A former Mexican army officer, Antonio Franco Coronel (1817 -1894) came to Los Angeles in 1834 and became the owner of Rancho Los Feliz. Coronel was noted as both an orange grower and educator. He taught school in Los Angeles during the 1830s and studied the culture of early Los Angeles. He also served as City Councilman, and was later elected as state treasurer.
May 4, 1854 - Jan. 13, 1855 ? Stephen C. Foster
Jan. 25, 1855 - May 9, 1855 Stephen C. Foster (Partial term)
May 9, 1855 - May 7, 1856 ? Dr. Thomas Foster. Foster was a physician who took a great interest in the development and improvement of water, sewer, and educational facilities.
May 7, 1856 - Sept. 22, 1856 Stephen C. Foster (Partial term)
Sept. 22, 1856 - Oct. 4, 1856 ? Manuel Requena (served as Council President, Acting Mayor).
Oct. 4, 1856 - May 9, 1859 ? John G. Nichols
May 9, 1859 - May 9, 1860 Damien Marchessault. A native of Quebec, Canada, Marchessault was a very active and aggressive mayor. He committed suicide in the Council Room of the Los Angeles City Hall in 1868.
May 9, 1860 - Dec. 26, 1860 ? Henry Mellus. Mellus arrived in California in 1835, accompanied by Richard Henry Dana, the Author of ?Two Years Before the Mast.? When Mellus became Mayor in 1860, the population of Los Angeles stood at 4,399.
Dec. 27, 1860 - Jan. 7, 1861 (Council President, Acting Mayor) ? William Woodworth
Jan. 7, 1861 - May 6, 1865 (Four terms) ? Damien Marchessault
May 5, 1865 - May 10, 1866 (One term) ? Jos? Mascarel. Mascarel was a French sea captain, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1844.
May 10, 1866 - Dec. 7 1868 (Two terms) ? Cristobal Aguilar
Dec. 9, 1868 - Dec. 9, 1870 (Two terms) ? Joel Turner. At the time he served as Mayor, the population of Los Angeles had grown to 5,614.
Dec. 9, 1870 - Dec. 5, 1872 (Two terms) ? Cristobal Aguilar
The last Latino to serve as mayor of the City of Los Angeles was Cristobal Aguilar who held office twice from 1866 to 1868 and 1870 to 1872. When Aguilar became Mayor, there were less than 6,000 residents. When the city council proposed selling off the city's water rights to bring in additional revenue, Aguilar vetoed the proposal. If Aguilar had not used his power of veto, Los Angeles would have lost control of its water rights, leading to serious problems later.
At the time Aguilar was elected in 1870, the Latino voter registration was about 22%. However, when Aguilar ran for reelection, he lost to an Anglo opponent, who made an issue of his poor English. Aguilar was the last Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles up to the year 2004.
A list of the early Hispanic Los Angeles Mayors can be accessed at the Los Angeles Almanac website at: http://www.losangelesalmanac.com/topics/Government/gl11.htm
Given Place Publishing Co. ?Los Angeles Almanac: Demographics, History, Statistics? Online: http://www.losangelesalmanac.com/default.htm (1998-2004).
Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, ?Mayors of Los Angeles?
William Marvin Mason, ?The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of Colonial California? (Menlo Park, California: Ballena Press, 1998).
Find the 2020 heritage month guides listed below:
Latino Heritage Month (LHM): September
September is Latino Heritage Month ! This year our Latino Heritage Month Calendar and Cultural Guide will feature over 100 events across the region that celebrate and honor our Latino communities.
American Indian Heritage Month (AIHM): November
The first American Indian Heritage Month (AIHM) Celebration in LA began in 2006 when DCA produced the first American Indian Heritage Month publication.
Mayoral Race a Test for Los Angeles, and Hispanics
Eight years after this sprawling city chose a maverick Republican millionaire as mayor to help it recover from years of racial tension and a devastating riot, Los Angeles finds itself at a political crossroads.
Six major candidates, including two Hispanic politicians, are contending for the right to lead a city that is both more diverse and more optimistic than it was a decade ago, and some prominent civic leaders have decided the time is ripe to elect the first Hispanic mayor since 1872.
That effort may have gotten a boost today when Gov. Gray Davis, a cautious Democratic centrist, endorsed one of the two Hispanic contenders, Antonio Villaraigosa, the former speaker of the State Assembly, as the best candidate to succeed Mayor Richard J. Riordan, who is barred from seeking a third term.
In his announcement, Mr. Davis recalled his own political mentor, Tom Bradley, the onetime policeman who became the city's first black mayor in 1973.
''In that historic year, the voters of Los Angeles looked beyond the color of a man's skin to choose the best person, the most qualified person, to be their mayor,'' said Mr. Davis, whose decision says as much about his desire to solidify his own support among the growing Hispanic electorate as it does about Mr. Villaraigosa's prospects. ''In 2001, nearly 30 years later, Antonio has the chance to do for L.A. what Tom Bradley did then: be a trailblazer and a peacemaker, a motivator and a mediator, an innovator and a conciliator.''
Mr. Villaraigosa will need all those qualities, because while Hispanics account for well over a third of the city's adult population (and 70 percent of its public school students), they still constitute only about 20 percent of the people who regularly vote, so only a coalition candidate can win.
The field for the April 10 nonpartisan primary is strikingly diverse and divided, all but certain to require a June runoff between the top two finishers. The race could produce not only the first Hispanic mayor of modern Los Angeles, but also the first female mayor, the first Jewish mayor or the first openly gay mayor of the nation's second-largest city.
So far, the front-runner in all polls has been the longtime city attorney, James K. Hahn, the son of a beloved county supervisor and local political legend, Kenneth Hahn, who has overwhelming support in the city's black neighborhoods. In addition, Mr. Hahn, who is white, did as well among Hispanics as Mr. Villaraigosa in a recent Los Angeles Times poll. But polls have shown that at least one-quarter of voters remain undecided, and with television advertising campaigns only heating up in earnest in the past couple of weeks, the race is widely seen as volatile.
The other major candidates are Representative Xavier Becerra, who has solid support in the Hispanic stronghold of East Los Angeles but has struggled to build a citywide base Steve Soboroff, a wealthy Jewish Republican commercial real estate developer who is Mr. Riordan's chosen successor Joel Wachs, a 30-year veteran of the City Council who is Jewish and openly gay, and Kathleen Connell, the state controller, whose experience in state and local politics dates to her own days as Mayor Bradley's housing director in the mid 1970's.
The 1992 riots, which dominated the city's consciousness when Mr. Riordan first ran, now seem a distant memory, and even the recent police corruption scandal in the Rampart district west of downtown has not loomed as a major divisive issue. Instead the campaign has been dominated by earnest talk of traffic, schools, sprawl and efforts to head off threatened secession movements in the suburban San Fernando Valley and the harbor district, south of downtown.
''I characterize it as very fluid,'' said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California. ''The spin is that the Davis endorsement will help Antonio in the Valley.''
But she added, referring to Mr. Davis's recent struggles to address the state's energy shortages, ''this power crisis is such a wild card, and this is a local race, and I'm just not sure how helpful it'll be.''
The challenge for Mr. Villaraigosa, who has the endorsement of the city's central labor council, plus the local Democratic Party organization, has been to exploit his liberal base and his status as a serious contender to represent the city's emerging Hispanic majority, which polls show is more optimistic and cares more about electing one of its own as mayor than any other group, while also reaching out to diverse constituencies.
Like the other candidates, Mr. Villaraigosa is striving to woo not only the city's affluent Westside but also the disaffected whites in the Valley who, along with Hispanics, formed the backbone of Mr. Riordan's coalition.
''I think most people see me as a leader, someone with an ability to connect,'' said Mr. Villaraigosa, 48, a onetime union organizer and former president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
''My support is in every community,'' he said. ''Not enough yet, but in every community. I think people are looking for the best candidate possible. I don't think they're focused on ethnicity.''
Mr. Villaraigosa's most prominent backers include Eli Broad, the billionaire businessman who is the city's richest person and perhaps its most influential private citizen. Mr. Broad is in the vanguard of a group of wealthy Westsiders, including the supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and A. Jerrold Perenchio, the chairman of the Spanish television network Univision, who are supporting Mr. Villaraigosa as the right candidate for the times, in much the way Manhattan elites supported David N. Dinkins's successful effort to become New York City's first black mayor more than a decade ago.
''I think he's got the leadership ability to do for L.A. what Tom Bradley did decades ago,'' Mr. Broad said in an interview. ''I think he's the most qualified and energetic. If elected, he's not going to be our 'Latino mayor' any more than Tom Bradley was our ɻlack mayor.' We're going to end up with a Latino mayor sooner or later, and some other Latino politicians wear their ethnicity on their sleeves and can't work so well together. He's a bridge-builder.''
The principal casualty of Mr. Villaraigosa's presence in the race has been Mr. Becerra, 43, who is a rising star in the city's Hispanic officialdom and who is often described as brighter than Mr. Villaraigosa, who failed four times to pass the bar exam. But Mr. Becerra is less well known outside his home district, and as of last month, he had just $586,000 on hand, one quarter the size of Mr. Hahn's war chest and less than half the size of Mr. Villaraigosa's.
Like Mr. Villaraigosa, Mr. Becerra asked President Bill Clinton to review the case of a convicted drug dealer, Carlos Vignali, whose father is a prominent contributor to local Democratic politicians. Mr. Clinton commuted Mr. Vignali's sentence on his last day in office, prompting a furor among prosecutors, and Mr. Villaraigosa said he had been wrong to intercede. Mr. Becerra maintained that he had simply asked for a review at the behest of the elder Mr. Vignali as he would do for any other constituent, and said there was no need to apologize.
Mr. Becerra resisted entreaties from some other Hispanic officials, including Mr. Villaraigosa, to drop out of the race, or to let Mr. Villaraigosa run for his Congressional seat in exchange for Mr. Villaraigosa's dropping out of the mayoral contest.
''Look,'' he said after a recent campaign stop, ''there were some who wanted me to cut a back-room deal. I intend to be mayor. There's work to do for the people of Los Angeles.''
L.A. Elects Hispanic Mayor for First Time in Over 100 Years
LOS ANGELES, May 18 - Antonio Villaraigosa, who won the mayor's office in a thorough trouncing of the incumbent, James K. Hahn, said today that he intended to be the mayor of all of Los Angeles, not just the nearly 50 percent of Latino heritage. But his victory confirmed the rising political power of Latinos in the nation's second-largest city.
After a lackluster term tainted by accusations of corruption at City Hall, Mr. Hahn was turned out of office in favor of a high school dropout who went on to become speaker of the California Assembly and a member of the Los Angeles City Council.
With virtually all of the votes counted, Mr. Villaraigosa had 260,721 votes, or 58.6 percent, to 183,749 votes, or 41.3 percent, for Mr. Hahn, according to the city clerk's office. Mr. Villaraigosa swept nearly every ethnic group in this diverse city and won in almost every neighborhood, except Mr. Hahn's home area of San Pedro, near the port, and the conservative northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley.
The mayor-elect was joined this morning by two prominent African-American leaders, Bernard C. Parks, a councilman and former chief of police, and John W. Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. All three spoke of the significance of Mr. Villaraigosa's strong majorities among the city's black and Latino populations.
"I'm an American of Mexican descent and I'm proud of that," Mr. Villaraigosa, 52, said at an auto repair training center sponsored by the Urban League. "But I intend to be mayor of all of Los Angeles. As the mayor of the most diverse city in the world, that's the only way it can work."
He said he had no national ambitions, even though as mayor of Los Angeles he now becomes one of the most visible Latino leaders in the country. He will take the oath of office on July 1.
At a victory celebration on Tuesday night, supporters chanted "Si, se puede!" - Spanish for "Yes, we can!" - as Mr. Villaraigosa strode to the podium. He thanked his family and the people who had inspired him over the years, and promised to "bring this great city together."
"You all know I love L.A., but tonight I really love L.A.," an exuberant Mr. Villaraigosa told his supporters.
The two candidates were a study in contrasts. Mr. Hahn, the son of one of the region's most popular politicians, Kenneth J. Hahn, who served 40 years as a county supervisor, was buttoned-down to the point of drabness. He acknowledged a case of "charisma deficit disorder," but said he was interested in getting things done, not touting his accomplishments.
Mr. Villaraigosa, who is as outgoing as Mr. Hahn is shy, was raised on the Latino east side by a single immigrant mother. He dropped out of high school for a time, then worked his way through the University of California, Los Angeles, and became a union organizer, then speaker of the State Assembly. He has been a member of the Los Angeles City Council since 2003.
The contest was a rematch of the 2001 mayoral race, which Mr. Hahn won by seven points after trailing Mr. Villaraigosa for much of the campaign. That race featured a number of late attacks by Mr. Hahn, who repeatedly attacked Mr. Villaraigosa for a letter he had written seeking clemency for a convicted cocaine trafficker.
Mr. Hahn's campaign was similarly negative this time, even using the same slogan, "Los Angeles can't trust Antonio Villaraigosa." Mr. Hahn accused his opponent, a former president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, of being soft on crime. He also noted that Mr. Villaraigosa had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign donations from out-of-state businessmen bidding on city contracts.
Mr. Villaraigosa, who outpolled Mr. Hahn in the primary election by 33 percent to 24 percent, generally ran an upbeat, front-runner's campaign. Although some of his advertisements noted the federal investigation of possible corruption in city contracting under Mayor Hahn, Mr. Villaraigosa mainly stressed what he called his ability to bring Los Angeles's varied geographic, ethnic and racial communities together.
In this he was aided by Mr. Hahn's two most significant actions as mayor. In 2002, Mr. Hahn engineered the ouster of the Los Angeles Police Chief, Bernard Parks, an African-American, which alienated many black voters who had supported Mr. Hahn in 2001. Mr. Hahn also campaigned vigorously to defeat an effort by residents of the San Fernando Valley to secede from the city of Los Angeles, angering a part of the city that had provided a major share of his margin of victory over Mr. Villaraigosa four years ago. Mr. Villaraigosa will be the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, but he won the office on more than the votes of the city's Latinos, who make up nearly half of the city's population but barely a quarter of the electorate.
"If you look at Antonio, he would be a credible candidate from any ethnic group," said Harry Pachon, director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California, which studies trends in Latino politics. "He has a liberal background, he's an ex-president of the A.C.L.U. for Southern California, he has union credentials, he was speaker of Assembly. He's punched his ticket in so many places."
Dr. Pachon said Mr. Villaraigosa was also able to split the African-American vote, which had been solidly in Mr. Hahn's column in 2001. It was the first time a Los Angeles mayoral candidate had successfully melded a Latino-black coalition to win office, he said.
"I will never forget where I came from," Mr. Villaraigosa said Tuesday night. "And I will always believe in the people of Los Angeles."
Iconic Hispanic Angelenos in History: Cristóbal Aguilar
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, join us as we celebrate the Hispanic individuals that have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Check back often as we highlight a new iconic Hispanic Angeleno throughout the month.
Today we celebrate Cristóbal Aguilar:
The son of one of California's first prominent families, Cristóbal Aguilar's life (1814-1883) was dedicated to public service. Known for being the first L.A.-born mayor of the city (and the last Hispanic mayor until the election of Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005), Aguilar's career is connected to many firsts in the city's history. For example, the house he grew up in -- an adobe located on North Main Street -- was used as the first hospital in the city in 1858.
Before becoming mayor, Aguilar started his life in public service in the Common Council, a legislative body that would later be known as the City Council. He served in the council on and off from 1850 to 1862. During that time he was also elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 1854. After leaving the Common Council, Aguilar was once again elected to the board from 1862 to 1864.
In 1866 Aguilar made the jump to Mayor. In a strange political maneuver, during a three month period from May to August in 1867, he was unseated from the position by Canadian-born Damien Marchesseault -- who later committed suicide inside City Hall. Once Aguilar was reinstated, he pushed through an ordinance that would create La Plaza Abaja, now known as Pershing Square.
One of Aguilar's most important decisions -- one that would help Los Angeles grow in later years -- was his 1868 veto of an ordinance to sell the city's water works to a company headed by Dr. J.A. Griffen. By preventing the sale of the city's water works to a private company, Aguilar guaranteed L.A.'s success.
Aguilar became mayor again from 1870 to 1872, winning the vote in a contentious election that resulted in a recount -- with 436 votes against 428 votes garnered by his opponent, Northeast L.A. pioneer Andrew Glassell. In 1872 he failed to win re-election when his opponent James R. Toberman played a dirty campaign, pointing out Aguilar's poor English skills.
Upon leaving the mayoral office, Aguilar became the City Zanjero, or water manager, a position he had held momentarily during his 3-month hiatus from the Mayor office. This position, considered to be one of the most important in the city, paid Aguilar a salary 50% higher than that of Mayor. In this position, Aguilar was in charge of municipal water and oversaw Zanja Madre operations.
Later in life Aguilar wrote a column for La Cronica, a Spanish-language newspaper, about local community issues. He passed away at the age of 68 in his house on Water Street -- fitting for a man who did so much to keep water flowing in the early days of Los Angeles.
Iconic Hispanic Angelenos in History: Francisco Ramirez
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, join us as we celebrate the Hispanic individuals that have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Check back often as we highlight a new iconic Hispanic Angeleno throughout the month.
Today we celebrate Francisco Ramirez:
Born in February 9, 1837, Francisco Ramirez's life was already steeped in L.A. history. His maternal grandfather was Francisco Avila, former alcade (mayor) of Los Angeles during Spanish rule and the builder of the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in the city, still standing on Olvera Street. Growing up, Ramirez lived across the street from Jean-Louis Vignes, a French immigrant whose winery in El Aliso was the first in California. Vignes taught Ramirez french, and by the age of 14 Ramirez knew how to speak Spanish, English, and French.In 1851 Ramirez started his journalistic career as a compositor for the newly launched Los Angeles Star. The paper had a back page section entitled "La Estrella de Los Angeles," which was completely in Spanish. Although he was only 14 when he was hired, Ramirez quickly rose up the ranks in the newspaper and became the editor of "La Estrella de Los Angeles" in 1854.
At the age of 17, Ramirez decided to leave and start his own newspaper. El Clamor Público was the third newspaper to be founded in Los Angeles, and the first to be entirely in Spanish. First distributed on June 19, 1855, the weekly soon became a platform for Ramirez's liberal ideas. Ramirez wrote editorials that highlighted the discrimination and injustice faced by Mexican-Americans, Californios, Chinese, and Black residents under the new government formed in the wake of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Writing extensively about lynchings, Ramirez called foul on a government that was led by a white minority that did not give non-whites the right to vote, routinely overlooked the law to punish racial minorities, and disenfranchised Spanish speaking members of the community.
He empowered the community by continually advocating the importance of voting and being part of the American democratic process. Ramirez believed the Mexican-Americans could prosper under the new government through civic engagement, changing the discriminatory system from within. El Clamor Público also occasionally published articles in French and English, alongside poetry and short fiction.
Due to financial hardships, the last issue of El Clamor Público was distributed on December 31, 1859. This did not silence Ramirez, who continued to advocate for Mexican-Americans, Chinese, Blacks, and women when he became a lawyer in Los Angeles in 1869.
Ramirez's contributions as a journalist and activist benefited not only Mexican-Americans but all residents of Los Angeles.
Black, Latinx and female entrepreneurs are still ignored by most venture capitalists
As voices of protest rang out during the pandemic year, Jorge Rios had a front row.
The former high school teacher from Mexico wasn’t just watching crowds massing in the U.S. and elsewhere over George Floyd’s murder, Black Lives Matter, anti-government sentiment and other issues. Rios was monitoring rows of computer equipment and hearing his chief technology officer shouting things like: “We’re blowing up in Myanmar. We need more servers.”
Rios created a messaging app called Bridgefy, an encrypted communications platform that relies primarily on Bluetooth and mesh networks, not the internet. In one 48-hour period of protests over the Myanmar coup, Rios said, the app was downloaded 1 million times.
But Bridgefy almost didn’t happen. Rios approached multiple venture capitalists seeking development money. His app had been built for low-income people who lacked an internet connection. The funding people weren’t interested.
“We had a hard time finding a venture fund that understood us and our mission,” Rios said. “We would hear: ‘How is this a problem? Everyone has internet.’ They just didn’t get it, didn’t consider poor people. We were constantly going through emergencies in Mexico, during earthquakes, concerts and large events, losing communications. We had a solution, but no funding.”
Ultimately, Rios’ eight-employee firm got the seed money it needed from Mac Venture Capital, a predominantly Black firm trying to help level the venture funding playing field. The Los Angeles operation is one of several relatively new venture capital players — people of color interested in improving diversity in the founders they fund and the markets those firms hope to target.
For Rios, Mac Venture was the choir he didn’t have to preach to. “They understood immediately what we were trying to do,” Rios said.
Rios’ company is an example of what has and hasn’t changed in the venture capital world.
Bridgefy, which maintains offices in Mexico and San Francisco, received backing after years of trying. But for many entrepreneurs of color and women of all races, venture funding remains a mostly impenetrable barrier to success.
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Venture funding is a major gateway to entrepreneurship, particularly in technology. It is an important catalyst for the development of new technology companies, the nurturing of big ideas and the start of new technologies and services.
For many business founders and women of color, it’s still a closed door, experts said.
“The disparity in who the venture capitalists are and where their money goes is just phenomenal,” said Katherine Klein, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Klein cited a diversity study by review platform RateMyInvestor.com that examined the records of 135 of the largest venture capital firms. The review website found that from 2013 through 2017, women led just 9.2% of the startups that got money. Less than 2% had a Latino founder, and 1% was led by a Black person.
The funding level hasn’t improved since then, recent data from Crunchbase indicate.
Black-owned U.S. companies received $1 billion in venture funding during 2020, - and Latino-owned U.S. companies received $2.7 billion — just 0.6% and 1.7%, respectively, of a total pool of $161.4 billion.
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This year, from January through May 19, Black business founders surpassed the amount of venture funding they received during all of the previous year, with $1.6 billion, Crunchbase said. Still, it represented a tiny portion of overall venture funding over the same period, at 1.4% out of $110.4 billion.
Latino business founders’ share of venture funding has slipped in 2021, at $1.7 billion, or 1.5% of overall venture funding during the period.
“One of the things that we have begun to see, with the Black Lives Matter movement, was more investor interest, suddenly, in backing black founders in particular,” said Marlize van Romburgh, editor in chief of Crunchbase News.
“It’s a little too early to tell if that’s a long-term phenomenon that really moves the needle in any meaningful way. Because we’ve seen some years where that seems to increase, but isn’t really rising to any significant proportion that would represent the U.S. population overall,” she said.
To attribute the funding gap to overt discrimination would be too simplistic, experts and entrepreneurs said.
There is a fundamental disconnect in communication and understanding, they said. The predominantly white male investors fail to grasp who founders like Rios are and the value of the markets those entrepreneurs want to target.
“We always say internally that talent is ubiquitous, but access to opportunity and capital is not,” said Marlon Nichols, one of two co-managing general partners for Mac Venture Capital. “We’re set on being change agents that provide capital opportunities to very talented, qualified and driven entrepreneurs that are building solutions for challenges that we care about, and a lot of those challenges are going to be related to underserved communities.”
Mac Venture, formed in 2019 through the merger of two smaller funds, raised $110 million for its inaugural fund. Very few Black-owned venture capital firms top $100 million in funding.
Among the largest Black-led venture capital firms is Los Angeles-based Sinai Capital Partners, which took a huge leap last year by raising $600 million to invest in tech, media and entertainment efforts, bringing total assets under management to $800 million.
San Francisco-based Base10 Partners nearly tripled its size last year by raising $250 million for a new fund. Founder Adeyemi Ajao told Bloomberg that the fund was a response to the racial reckoning heightened by Floyd’s murder. The firm gives a portion of fees and profits to historically Black colleges and universities and to groups improving tech diversity.
Los Angeles-based Backstage Capital recently crowdfunded more than $1 million on private investing platform Republic to back firms led by people of color, women and LBGTQ individuals, according to TechCrunch.
The last year of upheaval has prompted some mainstream venture firms to examine their practices and records.
Among them is well-known funder Andreessen Horowitz, which highlights its long history of diverse hiring and investing on its website.
The firm already had the Cultural Leadership Fund, formed with money from Black cultural leaders largely in entertainment, media and sports, including Shonda Rhimes, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Kevin Durant. The fund donates some of its fees and profits to nonprofits improving technology diversity but has taken some heat for backing only a few Black startups.
Jobs will come back and the state’s economy will recover faster than the nation’s, a UCLA forecast says, led by consumer spending, tech jobs and home-building
In June 2020, Andreessen Horowitz unveiled the Talent x Opportunity fund, led by partner Nait Jones, for entrepreneurs from underserved communities “who have the talent, drive and ideas to build great businesses but lack the typical background and resources to do so.”
The fund started with $2.2 million from Andreessen Horowitz partners and a solicitation for funding from others, who get tax benefits. Company co-founder Ben Horowitz and his wife, Felicia, have pledged to match up to an additional $5 million raised.
Felix Orwa and Meka Este-McDonald are the kind of entrepreneur Mac Venture looks for. The two run a company called Sote, based in Oakland, and they want it to streamline cargo movement in Africa, one seaport at a time.
“We often felt that Africa, with all of its resources, should be the breadbasket of the world,” Este-McDonald said, “and yet it still imports food, which is just completely backward.
“One of the root cause problems is logistics, and the tremendous amount of friction that exists in moving goods between African countries and to and from the continent in general. We felt that the best way to be involved, touching all of the pieces of trade, was to create be a digital clearance and forwarding company,” he said.
Orwa, who is chief executive, and Este-McDonald, chief product officer, had plans that were continent sized, but often the pair didn’t get far enough along in meetings with investors to tell how they planned to succeed. Africa just wasn’t a continent funders were interested in.
“Almost universally, people would say things like: ‘I don’t even know a single person who would invest in Africa. I don’t even know people who would take this meeting,’” Este-McDonald said.
When Sote approached Mac Venture last summer, the response was quick. Mac Venture led Sote’s seed funding with $1 million.
“To have an entire partnership group who was comfortable with Africa was a night-and-day feeling,” Este-McDonald said. “We were hearing actual startup-type questions, like ‘What are you going to do with the money?’ They were open to our ideas.”
Lori Shao was another entrepreneur who couldn’t find venture funding for her Los Angeles startup, Finli, which she hoped would free up daycare operators, martial arts establishments, tutors, afterschool programs and the like from the drudgery of paperwork.
“Like any service business with an education and enrichment angle, these small businesses always struggle to figure out who’s supposed to pay them, how much, when and on whose behalf,” Shao said.
“They fail because they can’t grow. They can’t grow because they don’t have the time to go out and get new customers,” she said. “But they can outsource their entire back office to us. We handle everything the scheduling, the booking, the payments, so they can build up their customer base and focus on teaching.”
But before Shao could explain how she would accomplish this in a business plan, she was always stopped short why did she want to work with a customer base like this, investors asked.
“Many times, investors have told me, ‘Why bother with first-generation and low-income businesses?’” Shao said. “‘Why don’t you guys go up market? It’s the same technology anyway. You can go to the affluent communities. You can do all of those things, and you can get better traction.’”
When Shao said she wouldn’t make that change, the rejections came.
“I literally had email after email from venture capitalists who say they support equality and uplifting and this and that. And they’re telling me, ‘Hey, we don’t feel comfortable about your space.’ Our space is exactly who they say they support, but I guess not,” Shao said.
Mac Venture provided Finli with $1 million of its initial round of $3.5 million of investment, the most it received from any single source. “It was a huge milestone for us,” Shao said.
Biography of Antonio Villaraigosa 41st Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013)
Antonio Villaraigosa was born in East Los Angeles on January 23, 1953, to a Mexican immigrant father and a California-born mother of Mexican descent. His given name at birth was Antonio Villar. He was the eldest of four children and, by age five, found himself being raised by a single mother. At age 15, Villaraigosa volunteered for his first grape boycott led by civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez. Although briefly dropping out of high school, Villaraigosa responded to a pleading letter from his mother and returned to graduate from night school at Roosevelt High School. With the encouragement of teacher Herman Katz, Villaraigosa went on to pursue college and earned a bachelor's degree in history from UCLA and, in 1985, a law degree from People's College of Law (he never passed the bar). Villaraigosa worked his way up through Los Angeles labor circles to become a prominent organizer for United Teachers of Los Angeles. After marrying Montebello school teacher Corina Raigosa in 1987, he and his new wife adopted their present last name Villaraigosa by combining his last name Villar with hers. In 1990,Villaraigosa was appointed to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Board and served there until 1994. In 1994, Villaraigosa was elected to the California State Assembly and, within his first term, was selected to serve as Democratic Assembly Whip and Assembly Majority Leader. In 1998, just four years after entering the Assembly, Villaraigosa was chosen by his colleagues to be the first Speaker of the Assembly from Los Angeles in 25 years. Villaraigosa left the Assembly in 2000 due to term limits and, in 2001, entered the fray to replace outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Villaraigosa was narrowly defeated in a run-off election by first-time opponent James Hahn. It was believed that Hahn's biting television commercials pointing out that Villaraigosa had written a letter to President Clinton (along with Cardinal Mahony and Sheriff Baca) asking for clemency for a convicted drug dealer contributed to the defeat. In 2003, Villaraigosa again was elected to public office to represent the 14th District seat on the Los Angeles City Council. He also served as national co-chairman of Democrat John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In 2005, Villaraigosa again returned to campaign for mayor against Hahn and this time defeated the struggling incumbent. Villaraigosa assumed office on July 1, 2005, as 41st Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.
There was much excitement in 2005 when Villaraigosa was elected to office. He was the first Latino to be Mayor of Los Angeles in 133 years. The last Latino mayor, Cristobal Aguilar (10th Mayor of Los Angeles, 1866-1867 and 1870-1872), was credited with saving L.A.’s future “bacon” by successfully fighting off efforts to sell off the city’s water rights. It was hoped that this new Latino mayor would also successfully move the city forward. That promise, however, quickly blemished.
- In a speech at a 2006 immigration march, Villaraigosa declared, “we clean your toilets!” Rather than coming across as stirring and enhancing his image as an inspirational leader, the declaration was widely derided. The following year, Villaraigosa avoided the demonstration by arranging to be out of the country. Yet, even that backfired when he returned to fallout from LAPD riot officers beating on reporters and demonstrators at the immigration demonstration in MacArthur Park.
- In 2007, after 20 years of marriage, Villaraigosa’s wife, Corina, filed for divorce for the second and final time after learning of another of Villaraigosa’s affairs, this time with a local television reporter.
- In 2008, LA Weekly published the article “The Eleven-Percent Mayor of Los Angeles.” The newspaper studied the mayor’s daily schedule over 10 weeks and determined that only 11 percent of his time was actually spent directly managing the city. The rest of his time was for out-of-town travel (34 percent), travel between local events (24 percent), blacked-out time (said to be fund-raising, personal, and “security-related” time (21 percent), and ceremonial and public relations time (10 percent).
- In 2009, Villaraigosa was featured on the cover of Los Angeles Magazine with the caption “Failure.” The article maintained the mayor to often confuse campaigning with governing and that he was largely ineffective at implementing his stated policy goals.
Los Angeles Magazine cover, June 2009
On the other hand, Villaraigosa was said to be willing to make difficult decisions as the city faced one of the worst economic crises in modern times. He made cuts to city finances and negotiated hard with city unions as revenues plummeted. He pushed hard for more police officers and crime plummeted. He fought for educational reform, transportation and redeveloping a dilapidated downtown. In July 2013, at Villaraigosa's exit from the office of Mayor of Los Angeles, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll found 47 percent of respondants viewed him favorably and 40 percent viewed him unfavorably. In his 2018 primary campaign for Governor of California, he was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and received 22 percent of the primary vote in Los Angeles County (behind front-runner Gavin Newsom's 33 percent).
So, was Mayor Villaraigosa a bad mayor? See our note on Most Regrettable Mayors of Los Angeles.