Tuesday’s Mayoral primary vote in Los Angeles saw left-liberal ex-Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa ride his powerful Latino-Labor coalition to a surprisingly strong first-place showing over LA City Attorney James Hahn, an establishment liberal and the longtime front-runner.
Although Villaraigosa still faces an uphill battle in the run-off— nearly 40% of the vote went to candidates ideologically far closer to his more moderate opponent Hahn—he does now stand a realistic chance of becoming Los Angeles’s first Hispanic Mayor in modern times, a remarkable achievement in a city where Hispanics may account for half the population but just 20% of voters.
If this occurs, the name Villaraigosa would be instantly transformed from the unusual (and invented) name of a relatively obscure child of California’s term-limited legislature—probably familiar to less than 1% of Americans—into that of the nationally recognized individual who had not suddenly only become the most important Hispanic elected official in America politics, but perhaps the most important Hispanic elected official in American political history.
Given these looming possibilities, it was particularly timely for the prestigious London Economist to have just run an excellent Lexington column on the “browning” of our Golden State. I had reached generally similar conclusions in my November 1999 Commentary article on the subject.