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California Democrats

Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass endorses Antonio Villaraigosa in governor's race

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), left, and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), left, and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa’s gubernatorial bid on Tuesday, arguing that his record of fighting for equal rights over the four decades she has known him demonstrates he would be the best candidate in the 2018 race to lead all Californians.

“What a governor he will be,” Bass said. “Antonio is working to lift up this state so everyone everywhere has equal opportunities. So good jobs are not just for people in Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach, but for everyone. So good schools are not just in wealthy neighborhoods, but for everyone, everywhere. So we are not a wealthy coast and a struggling inland, but one California [where] every single one of us has a chance to learn and earn.”   

Bass is the third former Assembly speaker to endorse Villaraigosa, who also held that post before he was elected mayor of Los Angeles. The current speaker, Anthony Rendon, has backed Treasurer John Chiang for governor.

Bass is also among the most prominent African Americans to endorse in the race. Black voters make up about 6.5% of the state’s population, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. That’s far less than the fast-growing populations of Latino and Asian American voters. But black voters have historically been a powerful force in Democratic politics. Villaraigosa’s support in the African American community is among the reasons he won the 2005 mayor’s race four years after losing.

“He has built bridges with the African American community for decades,” Bass said, pointing to Villaraigosa’s work on education, criminal justice reform and inequity. “Go to church with him and see the support that he has, the recognition that he has, the affection that people feel.”

Bass and Villaraigosa appeared together at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where they emphasized the nation’s need for more skilled workers with higher education degrees, as well as training in fields such as nursing and welding. It’s personal for the pair, who both attended community colleges before transferring to four-year universities.

“I know what education can do to change the lives of people,” Villaraigosa said, noting that he was raised in a home where domestic violence and alcoholism were present and that he had disciplinary issues in high school before teachers and his mother helped him find his way.

They spoke in front of several students who were brought to the country illegally when they were children. President Trump is considering whether to phase out Obama-era protections for younger undocumented immigrants.

“I want to make absolutely clear that here in California, we’re going to mark our own path. We’re going to stand up for the immigrants and the poor,” Villaraigosa said, pledging to try to use the courts to block Trump if he rolls back the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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