If former Los Ángeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is concerned about two recent polls that show him slipping out of the top two preferences among California voters for governor, he didn’t show it on Sunday.
“What I will focus on instead of the polls is I’m going to focus on the message of growing together, creating more middle-class jobs, addressing the fact that there is too much poverty and homelessness in the state that is the sixth-largest economy in the world,” said Villaraigosa, flanked by a score of elected officials who are backing his candidacy.
Villaraigosa, standing next to a Fresno Irrigation District canal not far from Fresno Yosemite International Airport, accepted the endorsements of Congressman Jim Costa and Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula, both Democrats.
“I think right now it is about 75 or 80 Central Valley electeds who have endorsed this candidacy,” said Villaraigosa. “They recognize I’m going to show up in the Valley, like I’m showing up tonight.”
Villaraigosa, who has now made 79 visits to the San Joaquín Valley, had pulled into a virtual tie two months ago with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the race to replace a termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown.
However, an April 11 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed him slipping to third behind Republican John Cox, 15 percent to 13 percent. A UC Berkeley online poll released last week showed Villaraigosa trailing Cox and Republican Travis Allen.
Newsom continues to dominate both polls.
The top two finishers in the June 5 primary will move on to the November general election.
“I’m looking to June 5,” said Villaraigosa. “I will say that I was 25 points down when I started. We continue to make ground. I think you’ve seen commercials lately.
“I’m going to focus on the issues and on the needs of the people in the Valley and the state, and I’ll let the commentators focus on the polls.”
Villaraigosa – who hammered on his support for economic development, immigration reform, dams and housing – criticized Newsom for not showing up for debates.
“You know, one of the candidates in this race has been missing in action. If you’ve ever seen that puzzle Where’s Waldo, he’s Waldo,” said Villaraigosa. “His name is Gavin Newsom. There’s another one, milk carton for missing children. We have a candidate who’s missing in action.”
Villaraigosa, noting that he was on his 53rd gubernatorial campaign stop (not including his listening tour before he announced his candidacy), stressed the importance the Valley plays in California, the nation and the world.
“The reason why I come here so often is because I know this is a great place,” he said. “But, it is a place with one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. Three of the top five cities with the highest poverty rates are here.
“It’s a place where the unemployment rate is higher than the rest of the nation.”
Villaraigosa said more middle-class jobs need to be created, and that the issue of the homeless needs to be addressed.
“As governor, I want to bring back redevelopment; give cities the tools they need to build that housing. I want to work on prosperity zones; investing with tax credits in areas of high unemployment and high poverty,” said Villaraigosa.
Water for agriculture is also important, he added.
“I know how important Temperance Flat (dam) and Sites (Reservoir) is to Fresno and the San Joaquín Valley,” said Villaraigosa. “I’m going to make it an absolute priority to stand up for that.”
Villaraigosa also said he backs a California State University campus in Stockton; and, a medical school at UC Merced.
“I want to be governor for all the people. It’s not enough to just knock on the door,” he said. “I’ve said I’ve been here 79 times. But you know what, that would be nothing if when I got elected I didn’t come back.”