- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — City Council member Antonio Villaraigosa savored his win over Mayor James Hahn yesterday, saying the difference in this election compared with the 2001 campaign was “simple — people knew me better.”

Mr. Villaraigosa, who lost to Mr. Hahn four years ago, was elected the city’s first Hispanic mayor in more than a century as voters embraced the promise of change in a metropolis troubled by gridlock, gangs and failing schools.

Tuesday’s election confirms the rising political power of Hispanics in the nation’s second-largest city.

In a victory speech before thousands of supporters in downtown Los Angeles, Mr. Villaraigosa, 52, paid tribute to his heritage while promising to bring the city’s diverse racial and ethnic groups together.

“I stand here today because people believed in me. I want you to know I believe in you as well,” he said amid chants of “Si, se puede,” Spanish for “Yes, we can.”

“Our purpose is to bring this great city together.”

At another appearance yesterday, he praised Mr. Hahn, calling him “a good man.”

“He’s provided two decades of public service to the city. We share a love of the city,” he said.

The election was a resounding defeat for Mr. Hahn, who was unable to keep his campaign focused on Los Angeles’ falling crime rate and rising job growth. After a lackluster term tainted by corruption accusations at City Hall, Mr. Hahn was put out of office in favor of a high-school dropout who turned his life around to become speaker of the California Assembly and then a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Villaraigosa had 260,721 votes, or 59 percent, to 183,749 votes, or 41 percent, for Mr. Hahn.

Mr. Villaraigosa’s decisive victory places him among the front ranks of the nation’s Hispanic political elite.

But he said yesterday : “I’m not, frankly, that concerned about being a national leader. I ran for mayor. I’m going to focus on the job.”

When he is sworn in July 1, Mr. Villaraigosa will become the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, when the city was merely a dusty outpost of about 5,000 residents. Mr. Hahn, the scion of a prominent political family, becomes the first Los Angeles mayor in 32 years to be bounced from office.

The bruising runoff between the two Democrats was a rematch of the 2001 election, in which Mr. Hahn rallied to defeat Mr. Villaraigosa and win his first term. Mr. Villaraigosa came back strong this year, nearly ousting Mr. Hahn in the March primary.

Mr. Hahn’s family has been active in Los Angeles politics for decades. His father, Kenneth, was a beloved county supervisor. He touted Los Angeles’ dropping crime and argued that he is the man to cure such urban ills such as failing schools and gridlock.

But the coalition of blacks and moderate-to-conservative San Fernando Valley voters that put him in office four years ago broke apart this time. He lost black support because he backed the ouster of police Chief Bernard Parks, who is black, and he suffered fallout from accusations that his administration exchanged city contracts for campaign donations.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide