Antonio Villaraigosa is charismatic and intelligent. He’s won a series of critical endorsements. And recent polls suggest that he’s running several points ahead of the wounded incumbent in the race for mayor of Los Angeles.
But if he wins, it won’t be due to charisma or intelligence alone, or even to the quality of his campaign. The reality is that the stars have lined up this year—not just in L.A. but across the country—for Latino office-seekers.
After generations of virtual invisibility in electoral politics, Latinos are serving as mayors in Miami-Dade County, Fla., San Antonio and San Jose, to name just a few places. Latinos were also recent general election candidates in New York, Houston, Denver and San Francisco (as well as in Los Angeles, where Villaraigosa ran against James K. Hahn for the first time in 2001).
Polls in New York suggest that former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is likely to be selected as the Democratic candidate to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2006 (although his chief competition at the moment is an African American woman); polls suggest that Ferrer, if selected, has a good shot at winning.