Villaraigosa re-elected to second term as mayor
March 9, 2009
By Matt Schrader
Despite an apparent reputation for being overly showy, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seems to be the easy favorite among people in South Los Angeles.
The long-time Democrat captured a 56-percent majority in L.A.’s 2009 mayoral election on March 3 — thumping even his closest rival by more than double.
Many have criticized Villaraigosa for holding so many press conferences and attending photo-ops, while traveling out of town frequently, including to campaign for Hillary Clinton for President in 2008.
The L.A. Daily News reported on March 1 that Villaraigosa’s tab for advertising his re-election campaign totaled more than $3 million.
Though many locals said Villaraigosa’s tendencies are gaudy and somewhat bothersome, they are unsure how the 56-year-old gained their vote.
Twenty-two-year-old USC senior Tawney Nakamura said voting is important to a society, but said she just voted for Villaraigosa because she knew his name better than anyone else.
“I’m from Seattle, Wash., but I think it’s important to vote [here],” she said, laughing. “I voted for Villaraigosa, because — well, I just talked to some friends about it — I’m not the most educated on politics.”
Thirty-seven-year-old Teana Roden has lived in South L.A. for 13 years and cited Villaraigosa’s image as a reason to re-elect him, as he represents the city.
“He’s been doing what he said [he would] for the city,” he said. “Just in general, I thought he did a pretty good job for the couple of years he’s been doing what he’s doing.”
To many, this year’s election seemed a shoe-in for Villaraigosa. Irene Cardoso said she couldn’t name any other candidates in the 2009 race.
“I really only came because someone in my work told me to come vote,” the 46-year-old woman said.
Ana Rodriguez, 53, lives on Ellendale Place with her recently graduated daughter.
“My daughter works for the City of LA and went to UCLA, and she said Villaraigosa is really nice and would always come to UCLA,” she said. “I don’t know what [political] issues are so important right now.”
Joe Lee Clark, 67, moved from Louisiana in 1966 and spent a few years of his life in prison. He said he voted for Villaraigosa again because of the potential to further shrink crime rates.
“It just don’t feel right — if ‘AV’ (has) already been in (as mayor) — that (anyone) else can keep the mafia and the gangsters and the gangs at bay better than him,” Clark said after voting for Villaraigosa. “So ‘AV’ is a hope.”
The overwhelming support for Villaraigosa is almost alarming, considering the campaign promises left unfulfilled, on many accounts, in the past four years.
Pledges of stopping gang violence and crime rates are still yet to see any action by Villaraigosa, although Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton has pushed different efforts hard.
Villaraigosa also urged the importance of a trash collection fee, saying money raised would allow for 1,000 more L.A.P.D. police officers. The L.A.P.D. is still far from reaching that figure.
“Everybody has a different opinion,” said 53-year-old Marta Menendez, who works at a local hardware store. “Some people say he’s done OK; I don’t think he’s done [well].”
“It seems like most of his time is spent on image instead of crafting solutions for things like L.A.’s 10-percent unemployment rate,” said Jonathan Wilson, a USC sophomore majoring in business. “He’s a really smooth politician — Anywhere there are cameras, he likes to be. It’s all about image, which is why he’s gonna win again.”
Villaraigosa clinched the 2009 re-election over the more-conservative Walter Moore by nearly 30 percent of votes.
Twenty-year-old Ted Tao is a sophomore business administration student at USC. He said the nation’s second-largest city would benefit from political competition.
“It is a shame there are no actual Republicans who can ever challenge him for mayor,” he said. “We live in L.A.; there should be someone who can challenge him.”
Wilson added that Villaraigosa has been campaigning and making appearances all over the world instead of helping his city in a time of economic crisis.
“It seems like most of his time is spent on image instead of crafting solutions for things like L.A.’s 10-percent unemployment rate.”
Still, many are convinced that Villaraigosa is L.A.’s best option in 2009.
“I ain’t getting no younger, and I don’t know if my way of thinking is right,” said Clark, “but if ‘AV’ knows [how to keep winning people over], we’re gonna be alright.”