L.A. mayor's extramarital affair may cost his support among Latinos
10:41, July 10, 2007
|Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been considered a rising star of the U.S. Democratic Party and a potential contender for California's next gubernatorial election, but a recently exposed extramarital affair could cost his traditional support among local Latino community.
Villaraigosa, a son of a Mexican immigrant and the first Latino mayor of a major U.S. city with the largest Lation population in nearly 150 years, confirmed last week his relationship with a reporter of a local Spanish-language TV station.
Political observers said that an outrage about Villaraigosa's latest betrayal of his wife threatens his longtime core support from Latino voters, especially the women, for whom the mayor was once the Latino prodigal son.
Latino women voters forgave Villaraigosa's former extramarital affair in 1994 after he and wife Corina reconciled, and they became a formidable contingent of his two mayoral campaigns -- in which Villaraigosa made his family life and values a key element of his appeal.
But many women from the Latino community here said they will never think of the 54-year-old mayor in the same way again after his recent admission that he has been carrying on an affair with a 35-year-old TV anchorwoman that has resulted in the breakup of his 20-year marriage.
Villaraigosa's wife has filed for divorce. The couple married in 1987 and merged their last names -- his Villar and her Raigosa. And according to his office, the mayor will keep the Villaraigosa name after the divorce.
Meanwhile, the mayor on Monday made his first public appearance in nearly one week at a news conference on school funding, flashing his trademark smile but ignoring shouted questions from media reporters about his extramarital relationship.
After he confirmed the affair, Villaraigosa disappeared from the public sight and even skipped the official opening of New York Senator Hillary Clinton's Los Angeles headquarters. He is a national co-chairman of Clinton's presidential campaign.
While the outrage against the mayor has been mostly pronounced among Latino women, men in the community have also been vocal in expressing their personal anger, disappointment and sense of betrayal at his personal life.
"We elected him to do a job, not to be taking care of the ladies. We have no room for players as mayors," said Joe Lozano, a man from the northern Los Angeles community of Mission Hills.
"I don't know what happened to the guy. I know many Latinos can be very forgiving, but not me," he said.
Whether Villaraigosa's latest affair poses a threat to his political future is debatable, as his political base has shifted and is no longer heavily dependent on the Latinos, according to Los Angeles attorney and local political observer Alex Jacinto.
But Jacinto said the high-profile affair would definitely pose a threat to the mayor among the base of Latino women supporters he has always had.
Jaime Regalado, a public affairs researcher at California State University-Los Angeles, said that Villaraigosa should be concerned about the possibility of "a Latino conservative cultural backlash. "