Latino lawmakers say Latino U.S. Senate candidate would energize voters

Latino lawmakers say Latino U.S. Senate candidate would energize voters
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, shown in 2013, is running for governor. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighs a U.S. Senate bid, the California Latino Legislative Caucus on Tuesday said a Latino candidate in the mix would attract more Democratic voters to the polls for the election next year.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is the only major candidate so far running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Barbara Boxer. Villaraigosa is the most prominent of a handful of Latino politicians considering a run in the 2016 contest.

A rush of support for Harris sparked consternation among Latino politicians, who have grown increasingly vocal about their concerns that the fast-growing Latino electorate is being ignored by Democratic leaders.

The Latino caucus issued a statement touting a voter survey it commissioned and saying a Latino contestant in the Senate race would be a boon for all Democrats.

“There are many talented Latino leaders who could help energize Latino Democratic voters,” said the caucus vice chair, Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego).

Villaraigosa is said to be close to a decision about whether to mount a Senate bid. But members of the caucus insisted they were not pushing for any particular candidate, despite the timing of their statements.

“One of the goals of the Latino Caucus is to develop avenues that empower the Latino community all across the state of California,” the caucus' chair, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), said in statement.

Follow @LATSeema for political news.