Armed with the coveted endorsement of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez turned to the home stretch in her state Senate campaign against Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla and said Monday that the mayor's backing is "complete and total."
"This is the endorsement that shows we're the best person for that Senate seat and that I'm the one who has been able to build the broadest base of support in that race," Montanez said. "The endorsement is everything -- fundraising, community support and political support."
Montanez (D-San Fernando) said that she planned an extensive mail effort to emphasize her allegiance with Los Angeles' highly visible mayor.
Montanez and Padilla are vying for the Democratic nomination in the June 6 primary to fill the 20th District seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley). The winner will be the presumptive victor in November's general election, because the district, which covers much of the San Fernando Valley, leans heavily Democratic.
On Saturday, Villaraigosa traveled to Montanez's campaign headquarters in San Fernando to announce his endorsement.
They were joined by City Controller Laura Chick, who last year announced her endorsement of Montanez.
Villaraigosa praised Montanez, 32, for her tenacity and for sticking to her convictions.
"What I love about her is what I love about young people," he said. "She believes in the power of one person to make a difference. She isn't afraid to stand up, even if she has to stand alone."
Afterward, Montanez said, Villaraigosa went with her to the home of a Pacoima resident for a coffee klatch.
The previous day, Padilla held a news conference just before a City Council meeting in Van Nuys to announce that 10 of his 14 colleagues on the council had endorsed him.
Padilla, 33, said Monday that he remains unconcerned about Villaraigosa endorsing Montanez. "With all due respect to the mayor, the two senators from California are backing me," Padilla said, referring to U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats.
"I'm not running against the mayor, and I believe that of the two people in this race, I'll be the better senator," Padilla said.
State campaign reports through March 22 show Padilla with about $907,000 raised compared with about $600,000 for Montanez.
Villaraigosa appears to have political influence in the Valley. In last year's mayoral runoff against incumbent James K. Hahn, Villaraigosa won in four of five council districts that are entirely in the Valley. He lost only in District 12, which is mostly outside the boundaries of the 20th state Senate District.