Hall-of-fame basketball star and businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson endorsed mayoral challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, becoming the latest prominent African-American to turn against incumbent Mayor James Hahn.
Johnson, who endorsed James Hahn for mayor four years ago, was pivotal in getting out the black vote for Hahn in his 2001 race against Villaraigosa.
But Johnson publicly broke with the mayor over his decision not to renew the contract of former L.A. police chief Bernard Parks. While the two patched things up enough so that Johnson joined the anti-secession campaign three years ago, relations have been strained since then.
"Under Mayor Riordan, the city of Los Angeles was a partner with private enterprise, and we invested in some of the most underserved communities. In the last few years, we have lost that focus," Johnson said in making the endorsement. "I'm supporting Antonio because he will reinvigorate L.A.'s business team and focus city resources on bringing economic development."
Johnson's endorsement is the latest in a series of major black figures who supported Hahn four years ago and are now supporting Villaraigosa. Among them: U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles; John Mack, the retiring president of the Los Angeles Urban League; and the Rev. Cecil Murray, the former pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Johnson, the former Lakers star who is now a part-owner of the team, made his announcement at a 24 Hour Fitness Sports Club outlet he owns in Sherman Oaks.
Since retiring from basketball in 1991 after announcing he was HIV positive, Johnson has become a major player on L.A.'s business scene with investments in the inner city, including movie theaters, restaurants and commercial buildings.
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