Now that Antonio Villaraigosa has opted out of running against state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to replace Senator Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate, Latino leaders are looking for another Latino candidate who could challenge Harris for the seat.
Concerned that the Latino community’s problems would not be addressed as well by Harris as they would be by a Latino, some Latino leaders with the Legislative Latino Caucus, which is meeting in Napa at a policy retreat, opined that there are other Latino candidates who could jump in the race.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), the caucus chairman, told the Los Angeles Times, “Regardless of Antonio’s decision, there are still viable Latino and Latina candidates who would continue to excite voters, make it a contested race and bring out Latino voters in the 2016 election. There are other viable Latino and Latina candidates.”
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) echoed, “I’m hoping that more people enter the fray and become part of the public debate.” He added, “Our interest is that whoever runs gets more people to the polls. We want to see the electorate get energized by the candidates. Look at the last governor’s race. We didn’t see much of a debate in that race. People said ‘its a done deal, why should we go out and vote?’ ”
Alejo and Hueso agreed that despite Villaraigosa’s refusal to run for the Senate, he remained a potent political force. Alejo opined, “From what I heard there is more he wants to do in public service for the people of California. Antonio is somebody who has worked very closely with the caucus. He is loved and respected and we look forward to working with him in whatever he chooses to do. When you talk about Latino candidates and name recognition and cross appeal, I think Antonio is a very well-recognized name. We’re waiting to see who jumps in. If it is Antonio I think he would be a very strong candidate.”
Hueso praised Villaraigosa’s experience, asserting, “He’s somebody who brings a lot of excitement to a race like that. I can tell you I have a lot of respect for him. He’s an elder statesman in the Latino community. He’s somebody who brings a lot of experience to policy debates.”
The Sacramento Bee listed some other viable candidates in the Latino community, including U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez , Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra. The Bee quoted a poll from the Garin-Hart-Yang research group that showed one-third of Latino respondents feeling they would be “more favorable” toward a Latino candidate.