Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of Los Angeles and now candidate for governor, told a Modesto audience Thursday that he would work across political and ethnic lines.
The Democratic hopeful in the June 2018 primary spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County. He talked about improving roads, rail, schools, health care and water supplies — major issues as well when he was speaker of the state Assembly.
Villaraigosa said he resented being called “the Latino candidate” in his mayoral races because he has worked with Californians of many backgrounds to address problems. He said he saw the same cooperative spirit among the 120 or so people at the McHenry Event Center.
“I love that there are non-Latinos here,” he said. “We’re all in this boat together, everybody.”
The governor’s race has drawn little attention so far in a year when national politics are at a steady boil. A poll released March 29 showed Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom leading at 28 percent, followed by Republican businessman John Fox at 18 percent and Villaraigosa at 11 percent. The top two will advance to the November general election regardless of party.
Villaraigosa admitted to being a “city slicker” who is not as enthusiatic as farmers about building new dams. He said he agreed to include them in a water bond measure as a compromise that would help it pass. He also supports recycling of wastewater, capture of storm runoff, and other alternatives for cities.
“Before we start screaming at ag and farmers, we can do a lot more ourselves,” he said.
Villaraigosa was speaker from 1998 to 2000 and mayor from 2005 to 2013.
He noted his role in creating the state’s Healthy Families program, which provided coverage to about 750,000 people. He said crime dropped during his time as mayor, and the public pension burden eased. The city also had road and passenger rail projects that put recession-weary people to work.
“And we can get a double bottom line from it, because when you repair your roads, your highways, and move your people, you’re creating the foundation for a better economy,” he said.
The event drew 15 students from a Modesto Junior College class on American politics. Among them was sophomore Antonio Juarez of Ceres, who liked what Villaraigosa said about compromise.
“What hit home for me is when he said not everybody is going to be happy, because it’s a democracy,” he said.
Roundtable President Rebecca Harrington was impressed as well.
“He has an understanding of what it takes in a state as diverse as California,” she said, “because you can’t get more diverse than L.A.”
John Holland: 209-578-2385