Mayor Villaraigosa’s Campaign Not Up For Debate

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Author: Katy Dhanens

On March 3, Los Angeles will hold its mayoral election. Incumbent mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa is running against nine other candidates ranging from Carlos Alvarez, a twenty-two year old socialist to Walter Moore, a Princeton and Georgetown graduate who has pushed for immigration reform. The mayor has generated controversy by refusing to accept invitations to debate the other candidates.

Although a majority of Los Angeles residents believe that Villaraigosa should agree to debate Moore or one of the other candidates, the mayor’s campaign spokesman Ace Smith continues to refuse. A Los Angeles Times poll showed that 97% of its readers believe that Villaraigosa should agree to a debate.

Some residents argue that, because of the absence of debates, Villaraigosa’s competitors have received very little media coverage. Villaraigosa has collected much more campaign money and has the name-recognition associated with incumbency.

Los Angeles Times opinions columnist Steve Lopez said, “[Moore is] ignored by the media because he has no money, and he has no money because he’s ignored by the media.” A debate would grant participating candidates equal media coverage and a chance to make their name more recognizable among citizens.

Moore believes that Villaraigosa’s refusal is a sign of weakness. “If you can’t defend your record or your policies, you have to marginalize the other guy,” Moore said.

Villaraigosa has already exposed his ideology and policies to Los Angeles residents in his first term. “I don’t know much about the current mayor, but I like what I know,” Rebecca Miller (first-year) said. “He’s been really supportive of unions and the environment.”

If Villaraigosa debates his challengers, he would have to defend his policies of the last year. Villaraigosa won the election last term by a landslide, but his approval ratings have recently slipped.

Villaraigosa has fallen short of several of his initial goals he made when elected. For example, the mayor has yet to reach his goal of providing 1,000 new police officers. There are mixed opinions of whether or not Villaraigosa succeeded last term.

Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Patrick Hayden said “[Villaraigosa] was very cooperative with the fire department in maintaining and increasing the manpower of the force.”

Los Angeles mayoral elections are characterized by low voter turnout. In his article for the Los Angeles Times, columnist Joel Stein said, “[Setting local elections at different times than the national election] exemplifies the problem with letting people who focus on local issues make the decisions [because] maybe 10 percent of registered voters will vote on Mar. 3.”

Some students feel that the Los Angeles mayoral election attracts little interest and attention among Los Angeles residents and students at Occidental College. Claire Willing (first-year) said, “At Oxy, I have yet to experience any political association with Los Angeles County. In contrast to the national election, no one here seems to participate in local politics.”

In the city’s mayoral election system all the candidates run against each other, and if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters have a run-off election.

In 2005 Villaraigosa defeated Incumbent Mayor James Hahn in the run-off election. Villaraigosa won 58.7 percent of the votes to Hahn’s 42.3 percent.

The Los Angeles Times has reported speculation that Villaraigosa may enter the 2010 gubernatorial election.Villaraigosa launched his official 2009 campaign for reelection on Feb. 9 in his hometown of Boyle Heights, a primarily Latino neighborhood.

“Everything we’ve been able to do over the last three and a half years we’ve been able to do it because we’ve done it together,” Villaraigosa said in his announcement speech in Boyle Heights.

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