L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may not have been on the special election ballot last week, but he emerged as the big winner locally.
With every contest he campaigned for going his way, the mayor solidified his standing with the City Council and gained even more political capital as he looks at reforming governance of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"Make no mistake, Antonio was the big winner on Tuesday," said political consultant Richard Lichtenstein.
In the 14th District race on L.A.'s Eastside to replace him on the City Council, Villaraigosa endorsed school board member Jose Huizar against challenger and former councilmember Nick Pacheco. Huizar not only got the most votes, he topped 50 percent in a field of 10 candidates to win the seat outright.
"It was a very strong showing by Huizar and was also testimony to the coattails power that Antonio has," said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.
Former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, a longtime Villaraigosa friend and ally, coasted to victory in the 10th Council District seat vacated by Martin Ludlow, who took over the top post at the County Federation of Labor following the death of Miguel Contreras. The only question among City Hall watchers: how long Wesson would remain a councilman. A former aide to County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, Wesson has said he would like to be a county supervisor himself.
With Huizar and Wesson, Villaraigosa gains two firm allies on the council, where he already could count six or seven generally in his camp.
Villaraigosa also campaigned hard for Measure Y, the $4 billion school facilities bond measure for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Measure Y is the last in a series of four bonds totaling $15 billion voters have approved over the last eight years to build scores of new schools and rehabilitate hundreds of existing facilities.
Despite several prominent officials coming out against the bond, including former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, Measure Y won going away with 66 percent of the vote, well above the 55 percent needed for passage.
By pushing for Measure Y, Villaraigosa gained standing with education supporters who might be wary of his intentions on school governance reform. During the mayoral campaign, Villaraigosa said he favors giving the mayor a direct role on the LAUSD's Board of Education. He has since reiterated that stance.
L.A.-area voters weren't willing to back local taxes.
Tax measures in Baldwin Park, Sierra Madre and Signal Hill failed to reach 50 percent. Only in the City of Commerce, 58 percent supported the proposed hotel bed tax, but that fell short of the two-thirds threshold needed for passage.
Voters sent a mixed message on open space preservation. In Calabasas, strict development limits were approved. But in Hermosa Beach, voters rejected a ban on beachfront building.
Finally, in an advisory vote, Calabasas residents rejected a move by the city to annex land now proposed for the development of the Malibu Valley Inn and Spa. The vote served as a proxy on the development itself, which would include a 200-room hotel, conference center, tennis club, two restaurants, a winery and some shops.
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