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Longtime Villaraigosa ally Jose Huizar to back his rival John Chiang for California governor

 (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

State Treasurer John Chiang plans to poke at one of his top gubernatorial rivals Tuesday when he unveils a notable endorsement at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

That neighborhood is the birthplace of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Chiang will be endorsed there by Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, the man Villaraigosa recruited to run for his council seat when he was elected mayor in 2005. Villaraigosa declined to comment on the endorsement.

“John Chiang is a powerful voice for efficiency and transparency in state and local government who has saved taxpayers billions as Controller and Treasurer,” Huizar said in a statement. “John Chiang is the candidate for Governor with the experience and proven track record to fight for a better future for all Californians.”

Chiang, who entered the gubernatorial race months before Villaraigosa, has raised more money but is lesser known among the state's voters. He's also earned a reputation for being wonky and understated, so the foray into Villaraigosa's home turf was notable.

Huizar and Villaraigosa have a long yet at times complicated history. While Villaraigosa campaigned heavily for Huizar's 2005 election and the two men were allies throughout Villaraigosa’s tenure as mayor, he backed former county Supervisor Gloria Molina when she unsuccessfully tried to unseat Huizar in 2015.

Villaraigosa’s relationship with Molina predated his ties to Huizar — she helped kickstart his political career by making him an alternate member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors, and by backing his first bid for public office, in 1994 for the state Assembly, and his later campaigns.

Neither Chiang nor Huizar mention Villaraigosa in their statements about the event. Chiang said he chose Boyle Heights to announce the endorsement and a yearlong road trip around California because of its diverse history.

In addition to the event at Mariachi Plaza, Chiang plans to visit Libros Schmibros Lending Library and eat at Al & Bea’s Mexican Restaurant. 

“Under the visionary leadership of people like José Huizar, places like Boyle Heights are thriving: light rail transit has returned, restaurants have opened, a bustling farmers market is held here every week, the community is engaged and neighborhoods are safer,” Chiang said. “I am humbled and honored to have his support and share his vision.”

On Wednesday, Chiang plans to head north to unveil an endorsement in San Francisco, the city where Gavin Newsom, his other top rival in the gubernatorial race, made his political name. Newsom served as the city’s mayor for seven years before being elected lieutenant governor, the position he current holds.

Updated at 8:20 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect that Antonio Villaraigosa declined to comment on the endorsement.

This post was originally published at 8:09 p.m.

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