Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks before the Sacramento Press Club in 2013. Rich Pedroncelli AP
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks before the Sacramento Press Club in 2013. Rich Pedroncelli AP

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Antonio Villaraigosa leaves mayors group hungry on U.S. Senate plans

By Curtis Tate

ctate@mcclatchydc.com

January 22, 2015 09:38 PM

WASHINGTON

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a roomful of mayors Thursday night thinking he might give them a taste of his possible plans for a U.S. Senate seat.

But he skipped the main course.

“I just want you to know that there’s press here in the back of the room,” said Villaraigosa, a 61-year-old Democrat. “So I have an important announcement to make: The dessert will be served in just a moment.”

The chatter back home in California and around Washington as the U.S. Conference of Mayors met this week was that Villaraigosa might seek the Senate seat of Democrat Barbara Boxer, who’s retiring next year. Speculation grew Thursday, as one of the possible leading contenders, the billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, announced earlier in the day that he would not be running.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat, is the only candidate so far to formally enter the race.

Though Villaraigosa was mum on the question, he got plenty of encouragement. Several people in the room shouted “senator,” and someone else yelled “governor,” referring to the possibility that Villaraigosa could wait until 2018 and run to succeed term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, president of the mayors’ conference, all but endorsed his fellow Democrat.

“We’re all just reading about what may or may not happen,” Johnson told Villaraigosa. “But you know you’ve got a whole lot of mayors who are going to stand with you, no matter what you decide.”

Villaraigosa was in Washington to present the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award to Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. Villaraigosa, a past president of the mayors’ conference, was its first recipient.

Johnson also had received the award, and he talked a little bit about the place it occupies on his shelf.

“I used to play in the NBA and I got a few awards,” he said. “But this one was kind of cool, so I moved the other ones aside and put this one front and center.”

Christopher Cadelago of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.