In an interview with the New York Times published Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mused on why he believed former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was defeated in June 5’s primary election, coming in third behind Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox.

“His allies overplayed the importance of an old educational debate and spent $23 million on ‘are you pro-charter, pro-reform,’ versus pro-teacher, pro-union, which was a stupid and silly waste of money,” he said. “If, you know, I had that much money to spend, I would have been spending it differently.”

Charter school supporters, such as philanthropist Eli Broad and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, contributed to an independent expenditure committee, which spent millions of dollars on behalf of Villaraigosa during the campaign.

However, elections expert and University of Southern California Senior Fellow Sherry Bebitch Jeffe said that Garcetti’s take on Villaraigosa’s campaign is too simple of an explanation. According to her assessment, it didn’t matter where Villaraigosa’s allies put their money. Rather, their mere presence was a liability for the former L.A. mayor.

“Policy didn’t drive this decision for voters,” Jeffe said. “It was style.”

While Villaraigosa carried a “rock-star personality” when he ran for L.A. mayor, this election’s Villaraigosa seemed weary and tied to moneyed interests, Jeffe said.

That’s not the only miscalculation, according to Jeffe. Another critical mistake was the emphasis on attracting Latino voters. Villaraigosa carried Imperial County, a heavily Latino constituency, but lost every other county in California.

“It’s not the smartest thing to do to invest in the turnout of one voter group,” Jeffe said.

There was one element of Garcetti’s analysis that Jeffe did agree with, however.

“He got killed off by President Trump,” Garcetti said, referring to Donald Trump’s endorsement of Cox on May 28.


Jeffe said many state Republicans were concerned about backing Cox, who has lost every election he’s participated in throughout his career. However, Trump’s endorsement gave Cox the push he needed to secure second place, putting him on the ballot for November.

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