L.A. City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa met with Business Journal reporters and editors to discuss his candidacy for mayor. Here are excerpts from that interview.


Question: How do you respond to those who question your motivation for a second mayoral run?
Answer: The answer is quite simple. I believe in Los Angeles. I believe L.A. is the city of the future. But L.A. is a city that is now paralyzed by scandal. It's a city adrift. There is no leadership, no plan, and no vision coming out of the mayor's office. While I was initially reluctant to declare my candidacy, it became clear to me that this city needs a strong leader right now. I believe I demonstrated as Speaker of the Assembly and as a councilmember (the ability) to build the kind of consensus that we need in this city.


Q: You ran once before and lost. The voters spoke at the time. What's different now?
A: The last campaign was a very ugly campaign. It was a campaign of fear that Jim Hahn waged against my candidacy. It was easy to demonize me. But that doesn't work twice. The people didn't know me as well as they do now. What's different is people have seen me as a councilmember. They've seen me settle that MTA strike when Jim Hahn was missing in action. They've seen me on the campaign trail as John Kerry's national co-chair. People have seen me engaged in the community.


Q: You trail Mayor Hahn and your opponent Bob Hertzberg in fundraising. What about the money situation?
A: That's one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that I've out-raised the mayor in the last two quarters. He started $1.7 million ahead of me and I'm catching up. Also, I'm doing like business owners do: I have less overhead and I'm keeping my costs down. We're not planning to spend a lot of money until the last 10 days of the campaign.


Q: What is your strategy to spend that money?
A: Voter contact. I'm not going to give you the details of that strategy. But you're going to see a very vibrant campaign that will be waged in every community in Los Angeles.


Q: When you campaigned for City Council, you promised you would serve a full four-year term. In recent months, a small group of constituents has launched a recall effort against you saying that you are reneging on your promise. What is your response?
A: Circumstances have changed. I thought long and hard before I made my decision. If I really had set out from the beginning to run for mayor, I would have made my decision much earlier. Many in my district and outside my district were urging me to run. Only when it became crystal clear that Jim Hahn doesn't have the wherewithal to lead the city did I decide to run.


Q: Well, it raises the question: If elected, would you serve a full four-year term?
A: Let me be clear about something. When there was speculation about my future, one of the things I said was: that there was no higher honor than to serve this city that has given me so much. Should I be elected mayor of Los Angeles, I'm going to put everything I have in being a great mayor.


Q: Why didn't you get the County Federation of Labor's endorsement, which went to Mayor Hahn?
A: Part of the reason why he won that support is because he pandered to them for four years. He didn't know how to say no. The role of a leader is to be able to say no sometimes, to be an honest broker and to balance the competing interests in this city. I knew what was at stake when I voted against the Hahn airport plan. It was going to hurt me with the building trade unions. But I also understand that the role of a leader is sometimes to say no for the greater good.


Q: What are you doing to offset that endorsement?
A: I know the rank and file know my record and have a great deal of affection for me and support my candidacy. And this is a very different election. In that election, no one knew who I was, so that endorsement validated my candidacy.


Q: But without labor, where in the city will you turn to offset that support?
A: I have a lot of support throughout the city. My support is growing on the Westside and in South Los Angeles. I'm doing better in the (San Fernando) Valley and I have a base on the Eastside.


Q: Why do you think Mayor Hahn has not been a success as mayor?
A: I don't know. He doesn't seem engaged. He doesn't seem to be the type to roll up his sleeves and go into communities and build the consensus you need. It's not about personality. It's about the work ethic, the "stick-to-it-ness" that it takes to get results.


Q: If elected mayor, what would be your three priorities?
A: I would restore trust and confidence in our city government by implementing a clean government initiative. I would put together an administration that reflects the breadth and diversity of the city, both geographically and ethnically. Then I would bring in high-level managers as deputy mayors that have the wherewithal to tackle the tough issues. I would also convene a council of economic advisors.


Q: Who are the three people living in Los Angeles that you most admire?
A: That's a tough question. (Short pause.) First, the Rev. Cecil Murray, who just retired as minister at the First AME Church. (Long pause, moves onto another question.) Father Gregory Boyle (founder of Homeboy Industries, which offers jobs to former gang members). (Several minutes later, walking out the door.) My wife.

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