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Newsom recall gives Antonio Villaraigosa risky road to political comeback. Will he take it?

Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa popped in to speak to a Loyola Marymount University class earlier this year, offering up a story about the pandemic and his career.

When some people ask if he's glad he's not governor or mayor during the tumultuous period of the health crisis, Villaraigosa responds with a dirty look, he told the students, according to a video of the class.

"I say, 'Obviously, you don't know me,'" Villaraigosa said, sounding as feisty as when he would spar with reporters at City Hall news conferences. "Because if you did, you would know I want to be right in the middle of all of it."

He could soon get his chance. Three years after his underwhelming performance in the California governor's race, Villaraigosa is being talked about as a possible Democratic candidate in the likely recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The election — pushed by a consortium of conservative voters disgruntled with Newsom — could allow for any number of candidates, including the former mayor. Olympian turned reality star Caitlyn Jenner has also emerged as a possible contender.

Some political analysts argue that a well-known Democrat should appear on the ballot to blunt the chances of a Republican or fringe candidate winning. Others, including state Democratic leaders, urge a united front and are discouraging Democrats from running.

 

Villaraigosa, who declined to be interviewed, has criticized the recall. But he's not publicly ruled out a run, prompting speculation about his plans.

Former Democratic Assemblyman Richard Katz regularly talks to Villaraigosa and said he can tell from the sound of his friend's voice that he enjoys seeing his name being bandied about in the recall talk.

"Everyone likes being in the mix," Katz said. "Everyone likes to stay relevant."

Mounting a campaign would be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor for Villaraigosa, who last held office in 2013.

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