Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been selected chairman of this summer’s Democratic National Convention, elevating his role as a surrogate in the Latino community and raising his national profile at a time Villaraigosa considers his political future.
A formal announcement was scheduled Wednesday in Washington, with the mayor planning to join President Obama on Wednesday night for a presidential fundraiser in Los Angeles.
As convention chairman, Villaraigosa will wield the gavel during the event in Charlotte, N.C., which opens with a festival on Sept. 3 and continues for three days of official business, including the nomination of Obama and his acceptance speech.
Villaraigosa will also serve as a spokesman for the convention, starting with a Web video the party planned to release on Wednesday.
Villaraigosa is one of the nation’s most prominent elected Latino officials and envisions an active role in Obama’s reelection effort. The White House, in turn, is counting heavily on strong Latino turnout, especially in battleground states such as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida.
In 2007, Villaraigosa endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in her presidential bid, serving as a national campaign chairman and stumping on her behalf in several states. He quickly swung his support behind Obama after the primary season ended, appearing within days on national TV to declare his support for the ultimate nominee.
Since then, he has been frequent defender of the president, using his stature as mayor of the nation’s second-largest city and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to laud Obama’s agenda. On Monday, Villaraigosa hailed Obama’s budget proposal for its investment in infrastructure and job training.
“The president has come through for our nation’s cities,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “Now it’s Congress’ turn: the House and Senate should put politics aside and pass the president’s budget.”
Villaraigosa has said little publicly about his political ambitions once his term ends in June 2013. Speaking last month at USC, he told students that “I’m operating right now like I’m at the end of the road and I’m riding off into the sunset.”
He said he intends to write and give speeches and was prepared for “a timeout.”
Privately, however, Villaraigosa has expressed interest in running for governor and has fueled speculation he might even challenge Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat, should Brown seek reelection in 2014.