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Sitting Out Races, Villaraigosa Says

Politics: The former Assembly speaker who lost a bitter race for L.A. mayor plans to work on corporate and nonprofit projects.

November 08, 2001|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ending months of speculation, former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa said late Wednesday that he has decided not to run for state Senate, Congress or any public office. At least for now.

Villaraigosa, who lost to James K. Hahn in the mayoral runoff in June, said he has decided instead to work with corporate and nonprofit agencies on a variety of projects, which will give him more time with his family.

"Everywhere I go, people say: 'You've got to run again,' " Villaraigosa said. "I wasn't just looking for a job. I wanted to be mayor. If I ran right now, I think it would somehow demean the nobility of the effort [to become mayor]."

Villaraigosa, who spent six years in the Legislature, including two years as Assembly speaker, said he plans to work with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle on a campaign to raise millions of dollars for inner-city Los Angeles. He said he is co-chairing an effort with real estate developer Ed Roski to build a biomedical research park at USC, in addition to serving as a senior USC fellow coordinating urban issue forums.

"All of these things are opportunities to stay involved in Los Angeles and to continue to give back to the community while not necessarily running for office right now," he said.

Political pundits have wondered for months whether Villaraigosa would run for state controller or take on Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) in a bid for Democrat Richard Polanco's Senate seat. Some even questioned whether Villaraigosa would take on U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) in his reelection bid, or try to unseat Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco when his term expires in 2003.

But Villaraigosa said he knew the night that he lost to Hahn that he wanted a break from campaigning.

"My family was impacted by that race," Villaraigosa said of his bitter mayoral contest. "And I felt like I wanted to spend more time with them right now."

He made his decision public Wednesday, the deadline for candidates to file papers to run for state office.

"Most people expect a politician out of public office to run for the first thing that comes up," he said. "But I think I can learn and grow as a private involved citizen. That's what I intend to be."

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