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It is no secret that ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is interested in running for governor in California in 2018. As a matter of fact, he is already actively going around the state and the country lining up both the financial and political support necessary to make him what would be only the second Latino to hold the governorship since Romualdo Pacheco did so in 1875.

Governor Villaraigosa and California's Latino Majority—Leonard Isenberg

Governor Villaraigosa and California's Latino Majority—Leonard Isenberg

Clearly, the front runner in this campaign for governor has been thought to be Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, especially when he passed on a run for the Senate. But the only reason Newsom has been seen as an inevitability for governor is that it presupposes the traditionally low Latino vote in all previous elections and not a systematically organized majority Latino voter constituency that could be offered to one of their own like Villaraigosa or Alex Padilla.

To effectively take advantage of the new Latino population majority in the state, Villaraigosa needs to make himself the common point of reference for this constituency.

A seasoned politician like Antonio Villaraigosa could easily be instrumental in creating such a dynamic and engaged Latino electorate around his own campaign for the governorship. And in so doing finally make the issues that have profoundly and disproportionately affected Latinos—education, immigration, language and culture—finally get the primary government concern they have always been entitled to and yet rarely received.

If Villaraigosa continues to do what he has already started to do with his campaign for governor—line up the Latino support and voters around the state and across the political spectrum—nothing will stop him or any other Latino candidates smart enough to mobilize their base and the other segments of the population that will also support them in creating a super majority that finally sees government addressing their issues and not exclusively those of the 1%.

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To effectively take advantage of the new Latino population majority in the state, Villaraigosa needs to make himself the common point of reference for this constituency. Up until now, although Latinos have made up a significant portion of the electorate, their participation in the voting process has never reflected these numbers. Within the state's various Latino communities, the belief shared by them and many prior immigrant populations has been that you steer clear of government involvement in any way, because getting involved can only cause you trouble.

What Villaraigosa can now do is focus his campaign on his Latino base by making it very clear that their and their children's fair and complete integration in American society will not take place unless they actively do something about it. When things as fundamental as an excellent public education are finally achieved as their absolute right and not just empty rhetoric, then they will know that government has finally heard them.

leonard isenberg

Villaraigosa's own involvement in what can only be viewed as the failed effort of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) to change public education should have taught him a lesson that those presently in power see allowing the now majority population of Latinos achieving their potential as a threat to those presently in power that will not be long as they remain in power.

Ironically, the status quo that continues to deprive Latinos of their equal share of the American dream also deprives every other American of being something more than they started out as, since neither Anglo or Latino cultures are allowed to evolve into something more, which has always been this country's real strength.

While nobody can really predict the future, the only thing that might stop Antonio Villaraigosa from becoming our next governor is his doing something stupid or his being tapped by Hillary Clinton to be her running mate in a campaign that would see the first woman and first Latino heading the executive branch.


Leonard Isenberg