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THE WEEK

Latino power comes full circle in L.A.

Once there was only Edward Roybal in a position of power. Today, as it did long ago, authority rests in many Latino hands.

April 11, 2010|By Cathleen Decker

In part, that is because both politicians and interest groups have worked at it. Los Angeles' mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, won election in his second attempt by attracting African American voters to go along with the Latino and Jewish voters who had earlier supported him. One of the main forces behind the career of former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, an African American now running for Congress, has been the Latino-dominated labor movement.

Still, tensions are never far from view. The Republican primary for governor is currently aboil with the subject of illegal immigration, a perennial flash point. Although so far the issue has been of little consequence in the campaign, its presence suggests that some element of the public remains uncomfortable.

"I don't think you can get rid of so many decades of that competition and animosity quickly," said GarcĂ­a Bedolla. "I think it's going to be a while before we stop having that sense that anything that is good for me is bad for you."

Burt, who is the political director for the California Federation of Teachers, pointed to a continued backlash against President Obama and the illegal immigration ads as indications that tension persists.

"Much of society is beyond that point, but the transition is not complete," he said. That said, he added, "Los Angeles has transitioned a lot better than I'd thought."

cathleen.decker

@latimes.com.

Each Sunday, The Week examines implications of major stories. It is archived at latimes.com/theweek.

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