Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Antonio Villaraigosa hopes Latino voters will help him become California’s Governor

Gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor who has struggled to gain footing with voters, was on a last-ditch 24-hour campaign blitz on his home turf this week. His goal: to motivate Latinos to turn out and vote during next week’s primary.

“Certainly the numbers are there, both in terms of the size of the population and the proportion of Latino voters, and that’s the part of the state where he would be the most well-known, given his eight years as mayor and his time serving in the Legislature,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California.

If he can capture enough Latino votes in Los Angeles, home to the largest share of Latinos in California, experts on statewide voting behavior say he could out-compete Republican John Cox in the race for second place. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is considered likely to place first.

Villaraigosa faces steep challenges. The key question is whether Latino voters will show up since voter turnout has been the lowest in California in primaries in non-presidential years, largely because large numbers of young people and communities of color sit them out.

Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant and senior adviser to Villaraigosa, said trying to the Latino vote has been the campaign’s underlying strategy all along and he believes that the dislike of President Trump in California – 63 percent of likely voters disapprove of his job performance – could drive Latinos to the polls, fueling higher-than-average turnout in a gubernatorial primary.

It’s unclear whether Villaraigosa’s strategy will work, but Madrid says Villaraigosa’s entire message has been about elevating issues that, across the spectrum of age and political ideology, are central to Latino communities, chief among them jobs and the economy.

“We’re already seeing a very strong showing among Latinos,” Madrid said. “The question for us come Tuesday will be how strong.”

THE SACRAMENTO BEE