Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in the nation's capital -- for the second time in less than a month -- glad-handing admirers and talking up education policy. But don't expect him to reveal whether he plans to run for U.S. Senate to replace Barbara Boxer, who is retiring when her term ends in 2016.
"I'm here to receive an honor," Villaraigosa said Wednesday, "not really here to talk about the Senate race."
The Democrat had just posed for a series of pictures after walking into the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, where he is set to receive a public service award Wednesday night from the League of Latin American Citizens. During a prior trip to Washington last month, also for a scheduled event, Villaraigosa held meetings with advisors--including the consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker--who could help in the event he chooses to run.
The former mayor smiled, again declining to answer, when asked whether he was meeting this time around with prospective donors, advisors or endorsers.
Then he launched into a discussion about education policy that sounded very much like a campaign speech: "... the civil rights issue of our time, the democracy issue of our time, and the economic issue of our time."
"It is so critical to America's future."
Villaraigosa's spokesman would not release a full schedule for the former mayor's time in Washington. But a consultant with knowledge of one meeting, who requested anonymity to discuss it, said Villaraigosa met with Latino Victory Project on Tuesday to talk about a potential Senate campaign. The consultant said Villaraigosa said he was not yet decided, but that Latino Victory – which helps elect Latinos to local, state and federal office – is closely following his deliberations.
Villaraigosa has been under pressure to make a decision soon. State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has been lining up support, raising money and building the perception that she is the clear frontrunner in both the Democratic primary and the general election.
But don't ask Villaraigosa about his timing.
"I'm not going to make a comment about the Senate race until I have something to say," he said again. "And right now, I don't have anything to say other than what I've already said."