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Latino state lawmakers back Antonio Villaraigosa for California governor

Antonio Villaraigosa gives a pep talk in Los Angeles at Cathedral High School, where he once was also a student. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Antonio Villaraigosa gives a pep talk in Los Angeles at Cathedral High School, where he once was also a student. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Legislature's California Latino Caucus on Wednesday endorsed former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for governor.

While expected, the nod from the politically influential caucus is a boon for Villaraigosa, a former Democratic Assembly speaker and the only major Latino candidate running for governor. Villaraigosa has lagged behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson in early polls and fundraising.

“As Assembly speaker and Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa worked to strengthen our economy, expand our healthcare, improve our schools and invest in strategic infrastructure projects that create middle-class jobs,” Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), chair of the caucus, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

An intriguing aspect of the endorsement is that one of the most prominent members of the California Latino Caucus is Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). In Sacramento, speculation abounds over whether De León may run for governor, and the Villaraigosa endorsement could indicate De León has other plans for his political future.

Villaraigosa joins a slate of other Latino statewide candidates endorsed by the caucus: Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa) for lieutenant governor; current appointee Xavier Becerra for attorney general; incumbent Alex Padilla for secretary of state; Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) for insurance commissioner; and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) for superintendent of public instruction.

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