Visiting Fresno once again, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is setting himself to be the most right-leaning candidate for California governor. Of course, “right-leaning” is a matter of perspective: Villaraigosa is a tried-and-true Democrat, even labeling himself progressive.

But compared to the likes of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang, Villaraigosa’s views could play well to a more conservative-leaning Central Valley. Exhibit One: Republican mayor of Fresno Lee Brand introduced Villaraigosa at a breakfast speech to the Fresno Chamber Political Action Committee.

Villaraigosa’s Humble Roots

Villaraigosa talked about his upbringing in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles; how he saved Los Angeles from bankruptcy (a story familiar to the fortunes of Fresno City Hall); the need to ignore partisan rhetoric; and how Villaraigosa plans to govern.

“I’ve been here, again and again,” Villaraigosa noted of his Central Valley appearances. “If I was in office for seven years, the measure would be how often I was here in those seven years, not how often I come seeking another office.”

Preparing high school students for the jobs of tomorrow is also important to Villaraigosa. “The next governor is going to have to work really hard with Fresno, L.A. and every other area to ensure we are graduating more of our kids from high school,” he noted.

Villaraigosa talked about the need for investing in infrastructure and justified the gas tax passed by the state Legislature. He made the caveat that a lockbox is needed to make sure funds are spent on roads instead of elsewhere.

CEQA Needs Overhaul

He also called for reform in the California Environmental Quality Act.

“This is the state with the toughest regulatory reform in the United States. We ought to have tough environment review. But, if I can get a compressed but rigorous review for a football stadium from the California Legislature, why can’t we do it for affordable housing? Why can’t we do it for the (highways) 99 and the 5?”

Villaraigosa answered his rhetorical question: Ideologues on both sides are screaming at each other instead of working with one another. “(They) haven’t figured out what most of us figured out in our households, particularly if you’re married. You have to compromise. You have to work together.”

He also lamented the lack of representation on the UC Board of Regents and California Transportation Commission. (Note: GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi used to serve on the Transportation Commission.) Villaraigosa vowed to make sure the boards would have representation from the Valley.

Fresno Chamber PAC Leans to the Right

The Los Angeles Times notes that the Chamber PAC usually leans right. “The PAC has made $31,350 in political donations since 2006, according to the financial disclosure documents filed with the secretary of state’s office. Of that, all but $1,500 was donated to Republican candidates,” writes journalist Seema Mehta.

Approximately 75 people attended the Chamber PAC event. The partial list of people I observed (in no particular order):

Fresno council members Paul Caprioglio and Esmeralda Soria; former Fresno councilman Blong Xiong; Clovis councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck; SCCCD Trustee Bobby Kahn (also Executive Director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission); Fresno Unified Trustee Christopher De La Cerda; Fresno City Council candidate Tate Hill; Congressional District 22 hopeful Bobby Bliatout; Fresno Housing Authority Commissioner Osvaldo Vera; Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Dora Westerlund; Fresno Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen; Fowler Packing Company President Dennis Parnagian; and from Mayor Brand’s office: Tim Orman, John Ellis and H. Spees.


Watch Villaraigosa’s entire speech (with introduction by Mayor Lee Brand):

Watch Villaraigosa take questions from the audience:


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