Molina gains endorsements from Boxer, Villaraigosa in council race

Boxer, Villaraigosa back Gloria Molina in her race to unseat L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said Thursday she has landed three high-profile endorsements in her race for Los Angeles City Council: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Gil Cedillo.

Molina, who is seeking to unseat Councilman Jose Huizar in the March 3 election, abruptly made the announcement after the three politicians appeared as endorsers on a League of Women Voters' information page describing Molina's candidacy. That information was provided by Molina's campaign.

Fred Register, Molina's political consultant, told The Times on Thursday night that he was unaware the page listing the endorsements had already gone live. That development forced the campaign to reshuffle its plans, by confirming the endorsements all at once on a Thursday night.

"All I can say is, I'm proud of every single one" of the endorsements, Molina said in an interview. "All these endorsements are good, and the reason they're good is that these are people who know me. I've been in the trenches with them from day one."

The endorsements were first reported Thursday by the Mayor Sam political blog. The former mayor did not immediately return a call from The Times. A Boxer representative confirmed the endorsement, saying an announcement had been planned for later this year.

Cedillo spokesman Louis Reyes also confirmed his boss is backing Molina but said little more. "I'm sure we'll put out something formally," he said "We're just not prepared to do so."

Thursday's news represents something of a botched rollout for Molina, who spent 23 years as a county supervisor but has not had a competitive election campaign in years. Candidates typically unveil their biggest backers one by one, for maximum effect.

Huizar has been gradually putting out his own high-profile endorsers, a group that includes the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

Parke Skelton, Huizar's campaign consultant, said the three endorsements announced by Molina are "nothing particularly unexpected."

"She's always had a good relationship with Boxer," he said.

Skelton said Huizar has picked up pivotal support from the city's firefighter union and scores of leaders in his district, which stretches from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock. "There are 300 community leaders who've already endorsed Jose," he added. "I don't know how many, if any of them, have endorsed Gloria."

Molina said she was one of Boxer's earliest endorsers in the 1992 campaign for U.S. Senate. Villaraigosa also has had a long history with Molina, who helped him enter politics by making him an alternate member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board of directors. Still, Villaraigosa has also been an important ally of Huizar, helping him win his Eastside council seat in 2005.

Molina said she asked Villaraigosa for his advice on whether to run but also worried about putting him in the "terrible position" of having to choose between allies. She said Villaraigosa responded by providing his support. "He said, 'Gloria, if you run, I'm there.'"

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