POLITICS- Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has decided against a run for the U.S. Senate, shifting the focus to Washington where a handful of congressional Democrats are weighing challenges to Attorney General Kamala Harris.
"I am humbled by the encouragement I've received from so many to serve in the United States Senate," Villaraigosa said in a prepared statement.
"But as I think about how best to serve the people of this great state, I know that my heart and my family are here in California, not Washington, D.C. I have decided not to run for the U.S. Senate and instead continue my efforts to make California a better place to live, work and raise a family. We have come a long way, but our work is not done, and neither am I."
Since Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her decision not to run next year, Villaraigosa has spent more than a month quietly positioning himself as the leading Democrat to take on Harris.
But a series of public and private polls showed he would have started the race as a serious underdog. He also would have had to untangle himself from a thicket of high-paying consulting contracts he landed since leaving the mayor's office in 2013 because of term limits.
Villaraigosa's decision not to run follows several high-profile exits from what could have been a crowded and expensive race involving the state's next generation of political leaders: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Treasurer John Chiang, climate change activist Tom Steyer and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Democrats considering bids include Reps. Loretta Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Xavier Becerra and former Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. Republicans Rocky Chavez, a state assemblyman from Oceanside, and Tom Del Beccaro, a former state GOP chairman, have launched exploratory committees.
Villaraigosa, 62, and a former speaker of the state Assembly, had solicited advice from elected leaders, fundraisers and consultants on a possible 2016 bid.
A Senate bid also would have forced Villaraigosa to abandon what he's long identified as his next political ambition: running for governor of California.
(Basil Kimbrew is the publisher of California Friends of the African American where this column first appeared.)
Vol 13 Issue 17
Pub: Feb 27, 2015