Election for L.A. mayor 2 weeks away

LOS ANGELES Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa opened his third Los Angeles field office on Monday. It is a campaign where he has no significant opposition.

Billionaire developer /*Rick Caruso*/ could have given /*Villaraigosa*/ a run for the nearly $3 million the mayor has raised. But Caruso decided not to run. Caruso says Villaraigosa "gets a free ride."

Attorney /*Walter Moore*/ disagrees. Moore is trying to throw up some speed bumps with his $200,000 in campaign funds.

"Well, to fix the city -- and because he's ruining it -- he has more money. But this is an election, not an /*eBay*/ auction," said Moore.

Villaraigosa refuses to attend any debate or candidate forum.

None of the other nine candidates, except Moore, is considered viable.

In this election Villaraigosa is justifiably confident. He expects it will give him another chance to fulfill the promises he made four years ago, promises regarding crime, education, transportation and quality of life.

"When you run for office you don't eliminate every problem you face overnight," said Villariagosa. "What you do is you work hard every day to lay the foundation for progress. We've got a story to tell and a big reason why we think there's a great deal of support for this re-election," said Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa started with a promise to take over the school board. A court ended that plan. But the mayor now has his superintendent, /*Ray Cortines*/. Villaraigosa could also end up with six of the seven board members as allies. In addition, the mayor has been given control of core schools to prove what he can do.

"We've now elected a reform board; we have a superintendent that supports the goals for reform; we have 10 schools, 18,000 kids," said Villariagosa.

Villaraigosa's march toward re-election was marred by a public affair with Spanish-language news anchor /*Mirthala Salinas*/; followed by a divorce. He has publically apologized.

Voters now may not care as they look at the mayor's list of successes; for example, the drop in the violent crime rate, which is the lowest it has been in Los Angeles since the 1950s.

Villaraigosa promises to add 1,000 new police officers. He added a trash fee to pay for them.

"I said we'd hire 1,000 new officers by 2010. We're on track to get there. We're nearly 700 net new officers," said Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa's challenger, Moore, is an attorney and real-estate broker who says there's only one reason Villaraigosa is up for re-election.

"He's been running for governor since he took the oath of office as mayor. He has scheduled one photo op after another. He wears so many different costumes. He's like a one-man tribute to the Village People," said Moore.

Villaraigosa will not rule out running for governor in 2010. However, in interviews, Villaraigosa says he is only running for mayor.

"I am focused on this job. I think people see that. I think they recognize I am not afraid to work as hard as they do. I've done that from the first day in office and I will continue to do that," said Villaraigosa.

Mayor Villaraigosa leaves on Thursday night to lobby in Washington, D.C., for the city's share of the federal stimulus money. It is his fourth trip to Washington this year.



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