Antonio Villaraigosa ‘Very, Very Close’ to Organizing Team for Senate Run

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

It is looking more and more as if the race to succeed Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate will feature California Attorney General Kamala Harris against former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Harris declared her candidacy in mid-January, and according to former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, Villaraigosa, is “very, very close” to organizing a campaign team.

Nuñez told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s still a possibility that he decides not to run. I doubt that’s going to be the case.” Jimmy Blackman, who has worked with Villaraigosa since 1997, when the former mayor was the California State Assembly majority leader, said Villaraigosa and Harris are friendly, but added, “Campaigns get ugly, and Antonio respects Kamala Harris, but this is business.”

It’s business for Harris, as well. Her former lover, former Assembly speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, has told Villaraigosa to stay out of the race.

Nuñez, noting the California and Washington, D.C., Democrats who have lined up behind Harris, essentially anointing her Boxer’s successor, said the attempt to seemingly ignore the Latino vote would be confronted by a Villaraigosa candidacy. He stated, “People feel like Antonio is the answer to that.”

While Villaraigosa makes up his mind, Harris has picked up another major endorsement, this time from Darrell Steinberg, the former Senate president pro tem. The Sacramento Bee reported that Steinberg said on Thursday he would stand behind Harris, acknowledging her efforts on California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights. He lauded her “commitment to smart-on-crime policies and protections for vulnerable Californians.”

There may be a quid pro quo involved; if Harris wins Boxer’s seat, California Governor Jerry Brown would have to fill the attorney general slot, and Steinberg could well be a candidate.