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Mayor to run again in L.A.

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa informed a national television audience this week that he intended to seek a second term in the city’s top post while giving some of his most personal remarks to date about the political fallout from his extramarital affair.

But Villaraigosa, who informally has discussed his reelection intentions off and on for a couple of months, did not say directly whether he would run for governor in 2010, one year after the mayoral election.

In a wide-ranging interview with public television’s Charlie Rose on Wednesday -- stemming from his support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton -- the mayor was asked about his gubernatorial ambitions.

Rose quoted an unnamed supporter of Villaraigosa who said the mayor “is thinking more about being governor than he is about being mayor.”

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Villaraigosa replied: “Nothing could be further from the truth. . . . My first priority is this job. . . . I’m running for reelection. I’d love your support. I aim to work as hard as I have in the first 2 1/2 years, all through the first term and the second.”

The mayor also acknowledged that his poll numbers had skidded since revelations last summer that he was romantically involved with a television news reporter and anchor. He and his wife, Corina, separated shortly before the story broke.

“I had a tough summer,” he replied to Rose’s question about why the poll numbers had dropped. “I got divorced; it wasn’t pretty.”

Rose asked whether the news media had treated him fairly then.

“I think if you accept public life, you’re going to live in a fishbowl,” Villaraigosa said. “They are going to write about you. Sometimes they write good things about you. Sometimes they don’t.”

Before the disclosure of the affair, Villaraigosa’s internal polling showed him with a 71% favorable rating, aides said. That dropped to 50% in August; outside polling showed an even lower number.

Since then, aides say, he has regained some ground, citing a 60% favorable mark in their latest polling, in December.

Villaraigosa also has raised his public profile locally and nationally -- persuading teachers and parents at six Los Angeles public schools to join his education reform efforts and assuming a visible role in Clinton’s presidential campaign, in which he is serving as a national co-chairman.

He made repeated trips to Iowa, Nevada and other states on Clinton’s behalf, and he is expected to visit Texas again before that state’s March 4 primary.

The mayor has yet to begin raising money for his March 2009 campaign. His aides said he would launch a reelection committee in the coming weeks.

No credible opponent has stepped forward yet to challenge him for reelection, though rumors of possible rivals have swept through City Hall.

Speculation that Villaraigosa had his eye on the governor’s post has swirled almost from the day he became mayor, a job he insists he loves. But that is similar to what he had said about being a councilman. When seeking a council seat in 2003, he promised Eastside voters that he would serve a full four-year term, then left in 2005 when he won the mayor’s race.

Critics have suggested that Villaraigosa has lost his focus and splintered his energies among too many initiatives. Rose asked him whether he was “adrift.”

“I feel very comfortable with the man in the mirror,” Villaraigosa said. “I feel very comfortable with the job we’re doing. The people of this city in a year and a half will be able to make a decision whether they think we’re doing a good job, whether we ought to be given a second term. We’ll see what happens.”

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duke.helfand@latimes.com


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