Antonio Villaraigosa's decision not to run for the U.S. Senate next year has already become a hot topic of discussion at a Wine Country policy retreat by the California Legislative Latino Caucus.
The former mayor of Los Angeles is scheduled to have a lunch meeting Wednesday with members of the 22-person caucus at the Westin Verasa Hotel in Napa, the site of a multi-day retreat.
The caucus, which is scheduled to hear a speech tonight from state Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, has pressed for a strong Latino candidate to enter the Senate race to replace the retiring Barbara Boxer.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), the caucus chairman, indicated support for Villaraigosa's decision.
"Antonio is a valued and respected public servant who still has a great deal to offer California," Alejo said in a statement. "We look forward to working with him to improve California wherever the future may lead him. We remain hopeful that the U.S Senate race will energize and excite voters up and down our great state."
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) declined to comment on Villaraigosa. However, a poll done by the caucus this month indicated a strong Latino candidate would energize the electorate and bring out more Democratic voters for the election.
"There are many talented Latino leaders who could help energize Latino Democratic voters," said Caucus Vice Chairman Ben Hueso of San Diego at the time the poll was released.
Besides Villaraigosa, who had the best name recognition, Hueso said other possible high-profile candidates could be U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra.