Just weeks after the results of the 2016 presidential election, potential down-ballot candidates are already turning their eyes to 2018. Among them is former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who recently announced he would be running for Governor of California in two years.
Villaraigosa joins three other Democratic candidates who have already announced their candidacy, including Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, state treasurer John Chiang, and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin.
Current Governor Jerry Brown will reach the end of his term limits in 2018, at which point California’s top-two primary system will allow the highest performing candidates to run in the gubernatorial election, regardless of party. In the heavily blue-leaning state, that means the race will likely come down to two Democrats.
Both Newsom and Villaraigosa have a good shot of earning those top two spots. Newsom spearheaded the state’s gay marriage initiative in 2004 while he served as San Francisco mayor and was a strong proponent of the recreational marijuana legalization that passed in November’s election.
Villaraigosa has strong popular support following his term as Los Angeles mayor, particularly among the largely Latino demographics of San Joaquin valley. If elected, he would be the state’s first Hispanic governor since 1875, and the first-ever L.A. mayor to take the governor’s chair. His campaign will likely focus on making further progress with issues such as immigration, climate change, and healthcare reform.
“I truly believe that what people are looking for is a uniter,” Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times. “Particularly now after such a divisive [presidential] campaign.”
Villaraigosa has also said he is in support of Governor Brown’s dual efforts to build a bullet train between L.A. and San Francisco and a freshwater tunnel system from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to prevent future drought crises — with some caveats.
“The short answer is I’m for the train, but we need to drive down the cost. We need to leverage it for economic development and jobs,” he said. “Before we build those tunnels we’ve got to do a lot more in cities. Double recycling, go to drought-tolerant plants, clean up aquifers and invest in underground storage.”
Recycling and its effects on climate change have also long been important issues on the statewide California agenda. Most corrugated cardboard made today contains 46% recycled material, giving it a low environmental footprint, but nearly 15% of recyclable containers in the state wind up in landfills. Glass bottles in particular, 90% of which contain lime, can take one million years to decompose.
“We spend too much time finger-pointing and not cooperating,” Villaraigosa said. Despite the state’s heavily Democratic persuasion, he vowed to work civilly with representatives across party lines, including President-elect Donald Trump.
“We need to stand up for our values, but we need to reach out across the aisle and work with the newly-elected president,” Villaraigosa said.