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Tuesday June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
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State of CaliforniaCandidate for Governor

Photo of Antonio Villaraigosa

Antonio Villaraigosa

Public Policy Advisor
926,018 votes (13.3%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • I’ve said again and again my top three priorities are high-wage jobs, high-wage jobs and high-wage jobs. That’s because economic opportunity and economic equality are the very foundation of the California Dream.
  • Lifting families out of poverty lowers crime, increases levels of health and even increases academic achievement in schools. Expanding the middle class helps heal the festering wound of income inequality.
  • High wage jobs creates dramatically more tax revenue – which we can invest in better schools, roads and rail, building more affordable housing, creating affordable and universal healthcare, and protecting our environment.



Profession:Public Policy Advisor; Former Mayor of Los Angeles
Council Member / Mayor, Los Angeles City Council (2005–2013)
Council Member, Los Angeles City Council — Elected position (2003–2005)
Assemblymember, California State Assembly (1994–2000)
Speaker of the Assembly, California State Assembly — Elected position (1998–2000)
Majority Leader, California State Assembly — Elected position (1996–1998)
Member, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Board — Appointed position (1990–1994)
Organizer/Field Rep, SEIU 100 (1986–1987)
Majority Whip, California State Assembly — Elected position (1994–1986)


Peoples College of Law J.D., Law (1981)
University of California, Los Angeles B.A., History (1977)

Community Activities

Volunteer, Midnight Mission (1994–current)


I have spent my life advocating for the California Dream. Whether as a union organizer or as an elected official, I have worked tirelessly to open the doors of opportunity, fighting for fairness and justice. I was a community organizer and/or labor leader for twenty-five years prior to getting elected to office in 1994. I worked as an investigator at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (U.S. EEOC). I was also a steward, chief steward and president of AFGE, the union of record at the U.S. EEOC. From 1986-1987, I was an organizer/field representative with SEIU 1000. Later, I was a field representative/organizer with UTLA and a member of the staff union as well.

I am a progressive. I was an early supporter of marriage equality, years before it was championed by other Democrats. When others were silent or absent, I helped lead the fight against bigoted attacks like Prop. 187 and 209. As Speaker of the California State Assembly, I wrote one of the nation’s toughest assault weapon bans.

I am proud of my record of accomplishment and believe it distinguishes me from my opponents. While in the Assembly, I authored the Healthy Families bill, which provided health care to 750,000 children. I fought for class-size reduction and authored a $9 billion bond for school building and repair. I joint-authored the prevailing wage bill, which ensured that workers are paid a fair wage with adequate benefits. I fought for AB 60 to restore daily overtime pay for people who work more than eight hours a day.  

While I served as Mayor, we doubled the number of high-performing schools and graduation rates went from 44% to 72%. We expanded the public transit system and, with Measure R, raised $40 billion for transportation projects, including new rail and bus lines. Los Angeles was the first big city to set a goal to become independent of coal by 2025 and during my tenure, we reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30 percent.

I have experience serving in both executive and legislative leadership roles. It is without question that serving as the mayor of the country’s second largest city has uniquely prepared me for the role of governor of the world’s sixth largest economy. Coupled with the experience of serving as the Assembly Speaker, working with legislative leaders and understanding the legislative process, my experience makes me exceptionally qualified to best serve as Governor. Throughout my career, I have earned a reputation for hearing all sides, making tough decisions and letting my colleagues, constituents and all stakeholders know why I made these decisions. Everyone might not always like it when I take a stand, but they will always know where I stand.

Questions & Answers

Questions from KQED and League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (5)

There is a shortage of affordable housing in California. How would you approach addressing California’s housing crisis? Please include specific proposals.
Answer from Antonio Villaraigosa:

One of the key problems facing Californians right now is the affordable housing crisis. It is estimated that in order to address our housing shortage we need 3.5 million homes by 2025. The good news is that a problem created by public policy can be fixed, in due time, with better public policy.

The first step should be to fully restore the ability of local governments to use redevelopment authorities to fund workforce and affordable housing for teachers, nurses, firefighters, seniors, low-income families and the homeless. For generations, redevelopment was a powerful public policy tool to make investments in economic development and housing. These agencies had the power to fund strategic local investments by capturing the increased tax revenues generated by new projects.

Beyond this initiative, we have to get smarter and faster in Sacramento. I’ll give you one simple example. We waive CEQA and provide exemptions to build football stadiums. If we can do that for stadiums, we should be able to modify it to build affordable housing and mass transit.

When I was Mayor we financed more than 2,500 permanent supportive housing units for the formerly homeless. And we partnered with the L.A. County Departments of Mental Health and Health Services to provide support for those residents. I also announced an ambitious plan to increase affordable housing for families. We set a goal: 20,000 new rental units for a family of four making up to $100,188 a year. Within four years, we not only met, but exceeded that goal.

We know what we need to do, but we also know it won’t be easy. We need to build dramatically more housing. We need to provide the mental health and substance abuse care to address the reasons so many people end up on the street. And we need to have the health care workforce to make this care a reality. We need to create more good jobs. And we need to keep fighting this fight even though it seems impossible – because basic human dignity tells us we do not leave our brothers and sisters on the streets.

California has some of the richest people in the country and some of the poorest. What would you do to reduce income inequality in California?
Answer from Antonio Villaraigosa:

Fighting poverty and income inequality is something I have done my whole life – because I have lived it. This is not something I heard about on a panel in Davos. This is not just some theory, this is my life.

I believe that poverty and income inequality are our biggest challenges. We are the 5th largest economy in the world, but have the highest effective poverty rate in the nation. That’s unacceptable and it’s why I intend to lead on the issues that are contributing to the crisis of poverty in our state, including creating high wage jobs, building more housing and rebuilding our infrastructure and education systems for the 21st Century.

High wage jobs are the top priority of my campaign. Creating high-wage jobs and expanding the middle class helps heal the festering wound of income inequality for all Californians.

What is so powerful about economic opportunity and economic growth is that they both create a virtuous circle. Lifting people out of poverty lowers crime, increases levels of health and even increases academic achievement in schools, because children in stable economic situations do better in school than children living in poverty. And certainly, creating high wage jobs creates dramatically more tax revenue – which we can invest in better schools, better roads and rail, creating affordable and universal healthcare, protecting our environment and any one of a number of pressing priorities.

I am fighting for an economy that creates more opportunity and more equality everywhere – not just in a few places along our coasts. I am doing this in a way that is grounded in fundamental truth and hard realities. I don’t think we make our state more progressive with press releases or empty promises. We make it more progressive with sound policies that help all Californians prosper.

Currently there isn't enough money in the state retirement system to pay for all the benefits promised to government workers. What would you do as Governor to address the state’s unfunded pension liability?
Answer from Antonio Villaraigosa:

This is one of the many issues we as a state are going to have to look at to ensure that working people are able to retire with dignity.

Earlier this year, it was reported that CalSTRS unfunded liability grew to $97 billion and its funding level dropped to nearly 64 percent. This is a critical and complicated issue, which is going to require a number of measures to fix. One thing I do know is that in 1998, the system was fully funded for the first time in its history because of increased state contributions. In order to do that again, we need to increase the state’s revenue, and the way to do that is to grow our economy. As Mayor, I worked with our City Administrator to make our pensions more sustainable, and I will do that as governor.

I think we can all agree that retirement benefits for public employees should be fair and sustainable. As unfunded liabilities continue to grow, we’re duty-bound to protect the next generation of public employees and the taxpayers who support them. I will work with our public employee unions to make sure we do.

How would you describe your feelings about charter schools? Are you in favor of any changes in the way the state governs charter schools?
Answer from Antonio Villaraigosa:

I support high-quality public schools and high-quality public charters. I think it’s important to support those public institutions, which are innovating and successfully educating our children. I don’t support for-profit charter schools. Additionally, we need to hold charter schools to the highest standards and not be afraid to revoke charters if those schools are failing.

Our goal is to lift up every kid and every school – whether a traditional public school or a public charter. And we need to do a better job of getting those two parts of our public education system to learn from each other. Charters are not the only answer, but they are one part of the answer when it comes to improving our schools.

Wealthy families can send their kids to private schools – or they can move to high-cost communities with excellent public schools. Low-income families don’t have the same opportunities unless there are high-quality public charter schools in their communities.

One of my chief opponents in the race for governor attacks charter schools, but he moved his family from a city to a high-cost suburb where there are excellent public schools. That was his choice. But none of us should try to deny that same opportunity to low-income families when it comes to public school options.

California and the federal government have disagreed about enforcement of immigration laws. Do you support California’s current ‘Sanctuary State’ law? If not, why not? Are there additional strategies that you would pursue as Governor?
Answer from Antonio Villaraigosa:

I grew up living side-by-side with undocumented immigrants. When I was young, I couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish, but I could hear the voices of those who lived on the edge and in the shadows. I have always stood up for them.  Let’s be very clear here: immigrants are under attack by the Trump Administration. But we’ve been here before. With Props 187 and 209. And we stood together as a state to fight back and to protect EVERY Californian. And I was proud to take a leadership role in those fights.

Now we need to stand and defend Californians again. I’m proud we’re a sanctuary state – but we need to do more. We need more legal assistance for those who are targeted. If Trump wants to raid a schoolhouse, library or community center, he’s going to need a special warrant because he can’t just sweep up our state.

My record in defending immigrants is clear. I authored a bill, the contents of which were adopted as part of State Budget negotiations, which provided subsistence cash benefits to legal immigrants who lost eligibility for SSI/SSP (Supplemental Security Income/State Supplemental Program) benefits due to the enactment of federal and state welfare reform in 1996.I also worked to expand access to State Disability and Worker's Compensation benefits through the Uninsured Employers Fund to help immigrant workers.

If we succumb to Trump on DACA, we’re surrendering our next generation of leaders, educators, health care workers and more to the political machinations of the far right.

800,000 DACA recipients live in in the United States-- nearly 223,000 here in California. We need to stand and defend our people. I’m proud we’re a sanctuary state – but we need to do more. We need more legal assistance for those who are targeted. If Trump wants to raid a schoolhouse, library or community center, he’s going to need a special warrant because he can’t just sweep up our state.

These young people inspire me every single day for their bravery. We must protect them because we’re protecting the future of our state.

Who gave money to this candidate?


Total money raised: $6,876,814

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

Employees of Harborview Capital Partners
Employees of Ildico, Inc.
Employees of Samueli Foundation
Tutor Perini and employees
Blue Diamond Growers and employees

More information about contributions

By State:

California 88.95%
New York 2.36%
Florida 2.28%
District of Columbia 1.15%
Other 5.26%

By Size:

Large contributions (99.65%)
Small contributions (0.35%)

By Type:

From organizations (36.49%)
From individuals (63.51%)
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I am a progressive who believes in marriage equality, reproductive rights and protecting our environment. I also believe in gun control, abolishing the death penalty and three strikes. All of these are issues I have led on for decades. I fought to have same sex marriage included in the DNC platform when I was chair. I joined the legislature’s LGBT caucus the day it was formed by my friend and colleague Sheila Kuehl. I led rallies against Prop 8 and recorded Spanish language ads to oppose it. I did the same when anti-choice advocates pushed parental notification measures on our state ballot. In the legislature I authored the nation’s toughest assault weapons ban and lent my name to campaigns to end the death penalty and reform three strikes.

But I am also a progressive because I believe that we must close the widening gap of income inequality and lift more families into the middle class. We live in a progressive state, and we talk a lot about how we need to defend our progressive values and principles, but we must also take stock of how well we are actually doing to make economic progress a reality for the millions of Californians who have been left out or left behind. We can’t be truly progressive as a state unless we are actually making progress for everyone. Progressive isn’t a press release. Progressive isn’t being on all sides of the same issue. Progressive needs to be a consistent and successful focus on closing the gap between rich and poor by lifting more Californians into the middle class and keeping them there. 

Position Papers



What Should We Do Next to Protect Our Immigrant Communities


For years now there has been a steady and unrelenting attack on immigrants and immigrant communities.  Some of those attacks began in California beginning with the passage of Proposition 187 in 1994 which targeted undocumented persons. Fortunately, the judicial system prevented the more draconian parts of Prop. 187 from ever taking effect.  Even more importantly, California has in recent years been the leader in enacting provisions protecting immigrants. California is home to almost two million undocumented persons and they are a vital part of our social and economic fabric.  

Whether it was passing drivers licenses for undocumented persons, or ensuring in-state tuition for undocumented college students, Californians have sought to balance the reality of the overwhelming majority of undocumented persons who are simply working and providing for their families in our state with the need to remove persons who are serious criminal offenders.  The constant vilification of immigrants as criminals and leeches on society has not succeeded in California as witnessed by the implementation in 2014 of the Trust Act which limited severely the holding of undocumented persons by state or city law enforcement for the sole purpose of allowing ICE agents to remove and deport those individuals.  Making exceptions for serious felony and violent convictions the California legislature drew a line regarding cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials.  Moreover, California recently enacted a program to provide health insurance for undocumented children, with California legislators and voters making clear that they understand that immigrants are a vital and essential part of California’s economy and society.

With the election of President Trump, immigrants and California communities have come to find themselves in the cross-hairs of evermore intense attacks.  Within weeks of the election of Donald Trump, California legislators sought ways to protect immigrants and families.  That effort resulted in SB54 signed into law in October 2017.  Building on the Trust Act, SB54:

  • Prohibits local law enforcement from automatically transferring people to federal immigration authorities, with some exceptions;
  • Protects against unconstitutional detentions by barring local law enforcement from holding someone in custody, beyond their release date, for immigration agents; and
  • Ensures that California schools, hospitals, libraries, and courthouses remain safe and accessible spaces for everyone in California.[1]

            Over the last months, ICE has stepped up enforcement in communities across the state, including efforts to arrest people in government buildings such as courthouses and conducting raids in cities deemed friendly to immigrants.  The US Department of Justice has also sued the state of California, arguing that efforts to protect undocumented persons and immigrants is contrary to federal law.  Local and county officials in cities like Los Alamitos and San Diego are contemplating joining the DOJ lawsuit, as some Californians share Trump’s panic regarding immigrants.  Further, the Trump Administration has now decided to ask a citizenship question as part of the 2020 census, the purpose of which is to cause fear and reduce the response rate of immigrants and their families.  Finally, the Trump Administration is now proposing to make it harder for lawful legal permanent residents and US citizen children to receive health and nutrition benefits for fear that receiving such benefits will prevent undocumented parents or family members from ever legalizing their immigration status.

            In the months and years ahead, we must continue to find to ways to protect immigrants, families and our communities, as we wait for our nation’s leadership to fix finally our broken immigration system. 

            First, we must continue to increase the availability of legal counsel for all who are detained by immigration authorities.  We should look to developing and supporting county level legal resource centers to coordinate and train both public and private, including non-profit agencies to provide legal counsel. 

            Second, as the Trump administration steps up and increases detention of those accused of violating immigration laws, we need to use all of our state’s powers to limit the expansion of detention centers and ensure the basic human rights of those detained. The state’s efforts to ensure compliance with human and civil rights resulted in the enactment of AB103 in June 2017, which authorized the state’s attorney general to monitor detention centers under federal contract.  Stories continue to emerge of serious health and safety issues in various detention centers, especially those operated by private contractors and we must continue to work to ensure basic human and civil rights. 

            Third, we should also explore all legal avenues for ensuring that California speaks with one voice as it faces the virulent anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration.  Our representative government debated long and hard over the last two decades on policies to protect immigrants.  If elected officials and citizens disagree with the policy choices made in Sacramento, the way to change such policies is through elections, not to pick and choose which laws they will accept.  

            Finally, we must also do everything possible to reduce the fear and anxiety caused by the Trump administration by protecting the privacy of immigrants and their families.  We need to ensure all data and information collected by social safety net programs and other governmental programs are firmly and securely protected from discovery by federal immigration agencies, whether a family applies for CalFresh or Medicaid tomorrow or answers the census in two years—the only walls we should build are those that protect immigrants and their families. 

            California must continue to demonstrate the moral leadership required of this moment.   Our country’s history shows that even in the darkest times, whether it was the round-up of Japanese-Americans for internment during WWII or during the McCarthy era when witch hunts for Communists caused many people to lose their jobs and careers, there were always some Americans who stood strong and fought to protect our core American values of justice and fairness.  They understood that what was being proposed was wrong and contrary to the very essence of America’s values. 

            This moment is our generation’s call for moral courage.  All of us are required to choose what side we will stand –not just elected officials, but regular citizens.  Whether they take care of our children or our parents, clean our houses or offices, pick our fruits and vegetables or contribute in countless ways to California’s vibrant culture, society and economy, I ask you to join me and stand on the side of those who are our neighbors and part of our communities.



            Until 2002 it was well-settled law that the federal government had exclusive and full authority to enforce federal immigration law. Before then there were at least three opinions written by the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) which held that state and local law enforcement agencies lacked authority to enforce civil federal immigration laws.  In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then Attorney General John Ashcroft began a process of re-examining those opinions and in 2002, OLC issued a secret opinion which reversed its prior opinions.  DOJ/OLC concluded in the summer of 2002 that state and local police have “inherent” authority to enforce the civil provisions of federal immigration law. [2]

            Our current debate over how much and under what circumstances state and local law enforcement agencies should cooperate with federal immigration agencies derives directly from that OLC policy pronouncement and the expansion of 287(g).  In a very real sense, the confusion and tensions currently swirling around “sanctuary” cities and states arise from the monkey wrench that General Ashcroft threw into previously clear and defined roles.

            To remind all, local and state law enforcement agencies have as their foremost and primary duty to keep the public safe from criminal actors and activity.  As numerous law enforcement officials have argued since 2002, requesting or requiring local and state police to enforce immigration laws complicates their ability to do their primary job.  Without the trust of the community, local police and sheriffs have a more difficult time identifying and arresting criminal actors, and are less able to respond to the needs of the community.

            With 287(g) agreements between DHS and 76 state/local agencies in 20 in states as well as the broad “inherent” authority of state/local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law determined by the OLC opinion, it is no wonder that immigrant communities are terrified.  The stepped up immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration has caused tremendous fear and anxiety in immigrant communities throughout our country.  With California as home to almost 2 million undocumented persons, the fear and terror permeates communities large and small throughout our state.

            One other key fact is the increased detention of undocumented persons.  Trump has called for more detention and curtailing the so-called “catch and release” process of releasing immigrants after arrest for immigration violations.[3] Trump announced in October 2017 plans to increase immigration detention by requesting private companies to make proposals for the housing of adult immigrant detainees.  Trump previously indicated that he wanted to detain and deport over 2 million undocumented persons.  Moreover, Congress has mandated that ICE detain at least 34,000 people per day and in 2018, ICE wanted sufficient budget resources to detain 44,000 people per day.

            Even before these announcements, questions were being raised regarding the conditions of those detained by ICE, by state and local jails under contract with ICE as well as private prisons.[4]  The focus on illegal immigration has led to massive numbers of people in detention.  In the mid-90’s, less than 7,000 were held by immigration authorities on a daily basis.  Steadily increasing in the last 15 years, in fiscal year 2017, ICE detained an average of about 40,000 per day.  Trump’s budget request for 2018 wanted to increase that number to over 51,000.  This is happening at a time when border apprehensions along the southern border was 24% lower in 2017 than in 2016. Immigrants, many of whom have been in the country for over ten years, are now the focus of interior enforcement. Moreover, in the first three quarters of 2017, almost a third of those detained by ICE did not have criminal backgrounds.

            Apart from deep concerns regarding health and safety in detention centers, especially those operated by private companies, the privatization of immigration detention means profit for some at the expense of the human rights of many.

            Historically, in determining eligibility for legal permanent residency (“LPR”), the government has not considered use of Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), or other non-cash benefits.  In 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of DHS) issued guidance to clarify to specify that cash assistance or government funded long-term care could be considered in making the public charge determination, which can be a bar to obtaining legal immigrant status. The Trump Administration, however, has now proposed a rule to broaden the scope of the “public charge” bar:  those lawfully present immigrants seeking to obtain LPR status or those seeking to immigrate lawfully into the USA would be barred from obtaining legal residency if they or their US born children utilized food stamps, Medicaid, CHIPS or WIC (Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Program).

            This proposed rule which is under consideration by the Trump Administration suffers the same weaknesses that led to the 1999 clarifying guidance.  The rule would increase confusion about public charge policies, “deter[ing] eligible aliens and their families, including U.S. citizen children, from seeking important health and nutrition benefits that they are legally entitled to receive. This reluctance to access benefits has an adverse impact not just on the potential recipients, but on public health and the general welfare.”[5]

            Lastly, the Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census will increase anxiety and fear in immigrant communities. An undercount is almost guaranteed which will have severe impacts on the allocation of resources such as Medicaid, food stamps and other programs where allocations are based on population size, when so many of our families are of mixed status.



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