- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

A notable aspect of the mayoral election in Los Angeles last week between two liberal Democrats, James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa, is that Mr. Hahn saw fit to take full political advantage of Mr. Villaraigosas connection to Bill Clintons Pardongate scandal. Mr. Hahn, the Los Angeles city attorney who came in second behind Mr. Villaraigosa, the former speaker of the California State Assembly, in Aprils crowded primary, aired an effective campaign commercial to remind voters of a letter Mr. Villaraigosa wrote to then-President Clinton on behalf of convicted drug trafficker Carlos Vignali, whose father happens to have been a Villaraigosa contributor. Carlos Vignali, of course, went on to receive one of Mr. Clintons more infamous last-minute pardons. Mr. Hahn went on to win the mayoral election. The Clinton legacy lives.
While Mr. Hahns Pardongate ad may be seen as capping a campaign that sounded fairly consistent themes of trustworthiness and law-and-order, some election post mortems are crediting the ad itself with delivering the fatal blow to the Villaraigosa camp particularly after Mr. Villaraigosa made a few vague but nonetheless screechy references to racism, and even McCarthyism, in an effort to fend off the Hahn attack.
That doesnt mean that race didnt play a role in this campaign, although not the one you might have expected in a city where both the erstwhile white majority and black minority are shrinking into smaller demographic blocs amid an emerging Hispanic majority. For example, Mr. Villaraigosas one-time close affiliation with a radical Hispanic separatist group that envisions the secession of the southwest United States to Mexico, went virtually unquestioned. And, interestingly enough, although Mr. Villaraigosa, with his barrio-to-the-corridors-of-power life story, was the overwhelming favorite of the citys Hispanic population, he was also the candidate of the still-white California Democratic political establishment. Endorsements piled up from Gov. Gray Davis and Republican Mayor Richard Riordan to various unions and the Los Angeles. Mr. Hahn, the scion of a white, politically connected family, ended up sounding like the populist, practically anti-establishment, candidate in this race. With the police and Magic Johnson behind him, Mr. Hahn received solid support from the black community and a coalition of more moderate to conservative voters to defeat Mr. Villaraigosa, 54 percent to 46 percent.
Did the Pardongate ad make the difference? Thats what some analysts are saying. Noting the peculiar reticence of Republican candidates to discuss or even mention Clinton-era corruption, NewsMax.coms Carl Limbacher wrote, "National Republicans who generally stay mum about Democratic corruption while their opponents throw everything but the kitchen sink at them could learn a thing or two from Mr. Hahn." Good point.

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