Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s announcement Tuesday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 could cap the political career of the once-rising Democratic star -- or portend a gubernatorial run.
Villaraigosa has freely admitted in the past that he would “love” to be governor, and the next question is whether he will run for the post in 2018, when Gov. Jerry Brown will be termed out.
His statement Tuesday hinted at the possibility of such a run.
"... 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.," Villaraigosa said. "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."
Villaraigosa would have some advantages for a gubernatorial bid -- a national base of donors and a high profile in the state’s largest media market. But in 2018, he will have been out of elected office -- and the public eye -- for five years, an eternity in politics.
The race has the potential to draw a crowded field of candidates -- a large number of Democrats have been locked out of the state’s highest offices because of Brown’s tenure as well as the long careers of Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has already started raising money for a gubernatorial run.
Villaraigosa was speaker of the California Assembly -- the first from Los Angeles in a quarter of a century -- from 1998 to 2000. Elected L.A. mayor in 2005, Villaraigosa was the first Latino leader of the city in modern times.
Among the most prominent Latino politicians in the United States, he received national attention, was frequently tapped as a surrogate for candidates across the country wooing Latino voters, and was chosen to lead the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Though his stature in national political circles grew, his image suffered at home. Critics charged that he was ineffective and more interested in promoting himself than in dealing with the city’s needs.
By the time he left office, four out 10 voters said they had an unfavorable view of him, according to a 2013 poll by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California.
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