School & District Management

City Attorney Elected Mayor Of Los Angeles

By Robert C. Johnston — June 13, 2001 2 min read
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City Attorney James K. Hahn sailed to a 9-point victory over one-time teachers’ union organizer Antonio Villaraigosa last week to become the next mayor of Los Angeles.

In the battle of two Democrats, Mr. Hahn captured 54 percent of the votes cast in the June 5 runoff election.

Both candidates had pledged to forge stronger relations between the city and the 723,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District on school construction, after-school programs, and shared use of school and city facilities.

Mr. Villaraigosa, a former speaker of the California Assembly who had hoped to be the city’s first Latino mayor in more than a century, won 46 percent of the votes in an election that saw a 36 percent voter turnout.

Mr. Villaraigosa had outpaced Mr. Hahn in the April nonpartisan primary by 5 percentage points. Last week, however, moderate and conservative voters joined African-Americans to help push the 50-year-old, four-term city attorney to victory over the more liberal Mr. Villaraigosa. (“Candidates for Los Angeles Mayor Talk Up Better Schools,” April 18, 2001.)

“We put together a coalition as diverse as this great city,” Mr. Hahn, who received 80 percent of the black vote, said in his victory speech. “I’ve always been committed to bringing all people of Los Angeles together.”

The election split two of the city’s most powerful education groups.

Mr. Villaraigosa was backed by his former employer, United Teachers Los Angeles, the local affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.


Meanwhile, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents 2,500 school principals and other management-level employees, did not endorse either candidate. But Eli Brent, the group’s president, applauded last week’s outcome.

One of the sore points for administrators was outgoing Mayor Richard J. Riordan’s endorsement of Mr. Villaraigosa. Pundits suggested the endorsement would fuel the concerns of moderates distrustful of Mr. Villaraigosa’s union history and liberal voting pattern in the state legislature.

But Mr. Brent pointed out that the Republican mayor has often used his bully pulpit to criticize the quality of the city’s schools, and he said that his members welcomed Mr. Hahn’s distance from the mayor.

“Mr. Hahn has not said he’s going to get involved in curriculum, but he’s going to set up a new department to locate land for school sites,” Mr. Brent said. “We see this as a very statesmanlike position.”

In the lone runoff for the Los Angeles school board, Marlene Canter, who runs the Canter & Associates teacher-training firm with her husband, Lee Canter, defeated incumbent Valerie Fields by 54 percent to 46 percent.

Ms. Fields, who helped push through a major teacher pay raise earlier this year, was backed by the teachers’ union. The administrators’ group endorsed Ms. Canter.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2001 edition of Education Week as City Attorney Elected Mayor Of Los Angeles


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