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On the Trail: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

No convention speaking gig for Villara . . . L.A.'s mayor

August 19, 2008|Phil Willon

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won't have a featured role at next week's Democratic National Convention in Denver, the political pep rally that can be a springboard for the party's brightest stars.

Villaraigosa was a national co-chair for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid. When she bowed out, the mayor was quick to toss his support behind presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama -- and was even tapped to introduce the Illinois senator at a convention of Latino leaders in July.

But as of Monday, Villaraigosa wasn't among the big-name Latino politicians scheduled to speak at the convention. The lineup consisted of former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Villaraigosa's biggest moment of the week could come when he speaks to the California delegation at a breakfast Thursday, along with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The Los Angeles mayor's office played down any notion of Villaraigosa being snubbed or disappointed.

"The mayor is a team player and will do whatever is necessary to bring home a win in November," spokesman Matt Szabo said.

Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University, said he thought Villaraigosa was passed by simply because California is expected to be an easy win for Obama.

It makes more sense, he said, to have speakers from states that are up for grabs.

GOP pollster and political consultant Arnold Steinberg of Los Angeles thinks the Obama campaign is making a mistake.

"He's the mayor of Los Angeles. I would think they would give him some more attention," Steinberg said.

"Maybe they thought it was easier to pronounce 'Richardson' than 'Villaraigosa.' "

-- Phil Willon

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