One-time rivals talk unity in race for California governor

Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As Democratic rivals for governor, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spent months belittling each other: To believe it, Newsom was selling snake oil, and Villaraigosa was a shifty corporate shill.

But now they can’t stop trading compliments, with the race behind them and Newsom headed for a fall showdown with Republican John Cox.

The two former opponents staged a show of party unity in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, sounding at times like best friends. They shared a breakfast, and chatted about their kids along with politics.

“I have extraordinary respect and admiration for the former mayor,” Newsom said.

Villaraigosa said “this wasn’t personal.”

“We agree on a lot more than we disagree on,” Villaraigosa added. “I think it’s really important that in these times, that we move beyond whatever differences we might have had and work together.”

There were hugs and handshakes, jokes and smiles.

It was a long way from the scrum of debates and the campaign trail.

The primary contest that ended earlier this month saw a stream of attack lines and verbal jabs from the two former mayors and their campaigns — Newsom’s time on the job in San Francisco overlapped with Villaraigosa’s run at City Hall in Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa had depicted Newsom as a wealthy elitist, out of touch with Californians left behind by the surging economy. Newsom’s campaign ads recalled a six-figure ethics fine paid by Villaraigosa, and his time as adviser to supplements and weight loss company Herbalife, which the ads called a “pyramid scheme.”

That was all forgotten Tuesday.

“You look forward, you don’t look back,” Newsom said.

Democrats dominate California politics, but Newsom and Villaraigosa agreed the party needs to do more to win in November — up and down the ballot.

Latinos, a key piece of the Democratic base, mostly stayed away in the June 5 election. The wealthy Cox has been mostly financing his own campaign, and has the backing of President Donald Trump. The Democratic-run state is facing a long list of problems, from homelessness to a growing gap between the rich and poor.

As a reminder, a man who appeared homeless pushed a shopping cart along the street during the event outside a cafe, a familiar site in downtown.

“We both agree that this state has got to do a better job at lifting more people up,” Villaraigosa said.

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