Mayoral Candidates Head Toward Runoff

On June 5, voters will determine whether former State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa or City Attorney James Hahn will become the next mayor of the second largest city in the nation – Los Angeles.

Hahn and Villaraigosa, both Democrats, defeated 13 other candidates in the April 10 mayoral primary. Businessman and Republican Steve Soboroff, current Mayor Richard Riordan’s pick as his successor, came in third place and will not be participating in the runoff election.

Villaraigosa, a high school dropout and the son of a Mexican immigrant, took 30 percent of the vote during the primary election. If he wins, he will be the first Latino Los Angeles mayor since Cristobal Aguilar served in 1872.

“I am someone who started with nothing, worked hard and played by the rules,” said Villaraigosa. “I don’t want to be the first Latino mayor, I want to be a mayor for everybody.”

He is backed by many unions and powerful groups, including the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the AFL-CIO; the Jewish community; the affluent Westside; and the Latino community.

Hahn, who has served as City Attorney since 1985, captured 25 percent of the vote. He drew much of his support from south Los Angeles and the black community – the area served for more than 40 years by his late father and county supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

“I think it is going to be a contrast in experience, philosophy and also the vision for the city,” said Hahn in regards to the runoff election against Villaraigosa. “I think I match up real well with him.”

During the primary, more than two-fifths of the San Fernando Valley voted for candidates other than Villaraigosa and Hahn, so both candidates view the Valley as the key to winning the runoff election.

Although Villaraigosa received much of the Valley vote – especially in the predominantly Latino northeast Valley – Soboroff did equally well in the more conservative northwest Valley.

Now that Soberoff is no longer in the race, Hahn and Villaraigosa are both trying to broaden their appeal to include more conservative voters.

Hahn, closer to the ideological center, is already getting endorsements from prominent conservative Valley leaders – many who support the Valley’s secession from Los Angeles. Although Hahn is opposed to breaking up Los Angeles into separate cities, he said he would stop any movements that would attempt to block the secession issue from coming to a vote in November 2002.

Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the Northwest Valley, initially backed Soboroff for mayor but now supports Hahn in the runoff. He is currently trying to persuade Villaraigosa to run for an open city council seat.

“I think in eight years, Antonio would have made a great mayor,” said Bernson. “But with term limits, we need somebody like James Hahn. Someone who already knows how things work and can get along with the city council.”

However, Villaraigosa is not without his endorsements. He has the support of many Republicans who are the leaders of homeowner groups such as Gordon Murley of Woodland Hills, Gerald Silver of Encino, Don Schultz of Van Nuys and others.

“I think he is the one with the most energy who will be able to bring people together,” said Schultz. “I think he is the one who cares the most about all the people in the city.”

Villaraigosa also has the backing of Gov. Gray Davis and the state Democratic Party.

Both Hahn and Villaraigosa are seeking Mayor Riordan’s endorsement.