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Clinton to get Villaraigosa’s endorsement

Times Staff Writers

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today, a development that could help the New York senator expand her reach among Latino and union voters in many parts of the country.

The expected announcement follows months of political courtship on both coasts. Clinton has met with Villaraigosa several times in Los Angeles and Washington and has wooed him more aggressively than any other top Democratic candidate.

Villaraigosa is California’s most recognizable Latino political figure and a rising Democratic star.

He said he chose Clinton because she stood out among a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, including Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

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The mayor said he was swayed by Clinton’s six years as a United States senator, her ability to secure money to rebuild parts of New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and her know-how from eight years in the White House with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“I’m supporting Sen. Clinton because I think her experience, strength and leadership are what we need in our nation right now,” Villaraigosa said.

The Clinton campaign did not return phone calls Tuesday, but it issued an advisory saying that she would be traveling to Los Angeles for a “major campaign announcement” at UCLA after touring a preschool.

It was not clear Tuesday what role Villaraigosa will play in the campaign. But he said he would be “stumping on her behalf throughout the city, the state and, indeed, throughout the country.”

Villaraigosa co-chaired Sen. John Kerry’s Democratic presidential bid in 2004 and became deeply involved in planning the Democratic platform for the 2004 elections.

Experts said one obvious plus for Clinton is Villaraigosa’s role as the Mexican American leader of a major American city. Several states with large Latino populations were heavily contested in the 2004 presidential election.

“He is someone who could bring in a Latino vote without having to campaign too heavily in Latino communities,” said Jaime Regalado, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. “He has the surname and the face of Latino America.”

duke.helfand@latimes.com

steve.hymon@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.


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