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Villaraigosa now supports Obama

June 07, 2008|Phil Willon | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of Sen. Hillary Clinton's most loyal and active supporters in her bid for the presidency, went on national television Friday to throw his enthusiastic support behind Barack Obama, now that the Illinois senator has locked up the Democratic nomination.

The mayor, one of the nation's most prominent Latino politicians, had served as the Clinton campaign's national co-chair and campaigned hard for her during primaries in California, Nevada and Texas -- helping Clinton's successful effort to court Latino voters.

Appearing Friday afternoon on CNN, Villaraigosa promised to work just as hard for Obama, saying he would go "anywhere they ask me to go" to help defeat presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain in November.

"I'm excited about Barack Obama," Villaraigosa told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "His clarion call for change touched a chord all across the nation, and I'm going to work as hard for him as I did for Hillary Clinton."

Villaraigosa praised Clinton as a "woman of incredible courage and intestinal fortitude," and even had some nice things to say about McCain. But he said Obama is the agent of change that voters in the country are desperate for.

He dismissed concerns about Obama's trouble appealing to Latino voters in the primaries, saying the Latino community's support for Clinton had more to do with the "long history and long relationship" it had with her and her husband, former President Clinton. He added that recent polls showed that Latino voters heavily favor Obama over McCain.

"Here in California, we recognize just how important it is for us to invest in healthcare, to assure that working families and their children have a fair shake -- that we're making education our priority," Villaraigosa said. "Those are issues . . . that are important in the Latino community, in California overall, and I think across the country. And that's why you're going to see a groundswell of support for Sen. Obama."

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phil.willon@latimes.com

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