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Former Mayor Villaraigosa Is Considering A US Senate Run

Larry King and Antonio Villaraigosa autograph a Mercedes-Benz car for auction at the Carousel of Hope Ball benefitting Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes on October 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz)
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He's back: after fading from the public eye, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced over the weekend that he was considering a run for Barbara Boxer's senate.

We hadn't heard much from Villaraigosa since he left office in 2013 with , except to learn that he had taken jobs with a community bank and Herbalife, a company that continues to battle allegations that it is an illegal pyramid scene. He has spoken about running for governor—a seat that will be open in 2018—he even considered going head to head in the primary with Jerry Brown this last election. But with Barbara Boxer announcing that she wouldn't be running in 2016, there's a wide-open race. Villaraigosa decided to post on Facebook for the first time since his term as mayor ended:

Too many Californians are struggling to make ends meet, pay the bills, and send their kids to college. They are looking for progressive leaders in Washington who will fight for them, like Senator Boxer has done for over 20 years. I was honored to serve as Speaker of the CA Assembly and as Mayor of Los Angeles and it would be an honor to serve Californians again in the future. The urgency of the needs of the people of this great state have convinced me to seriously consider looking at running for California's open Senate seat.

The biggest names being batted around for the seat include State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who has stayed mum, and Lt. Governor Newsom, who just announced he wasn't into the race. (Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown is hoping Brown will give the Senate a shot.) Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is working the phones, trying to figure out if a run makes sense. The Sacramento Bee has a list of other contenders.

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Villaraigosa has a lot going for him. He has a very visible, long-lasting accomplishment in our public transportation system, which is getting built out thanks to his stumping for Measure R. He's got a lot of charisma, a winning politician's smile and an inspiring backstory. He would be able to tap into his minority constituencies, which are known to really turn out during presidential years (the same wouldn't be true if he ran for governor in 2018). Of course, if Harris runs, that advantage might be kind of a wash.

Even people who praise Villaraigosa for his accomplishments or politics have to admit that he's got a streak for self-sabotage. His personal life continually threatened to overshadow his work as mayor: his divorce after an affair with a Telemundo reporter created a distracting frenzy during his tenure as mayor. He always enjoyed the lighter side of the job, like posing with Charlie Sheen at a party in Mexico. Critics charged that he seemed to be more into traveling and self-promotion than doing the hard work of governance at home. He seems to have a better reputation outside of Los Angeles than at home—being picked to chair the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Villaraigosa is one of the best known candidates, but that doesn't seem to work for him the Los Angeles Times notes: "And although he is better known than many other potential candidates for the Senate post, he also had more unfavorable ratings in an October poll by USC Dornsife and The Times."