Antonio's Turning Point

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Here we are, many of us -- voting again. Ballots are trickling in and on Tuesday night they will count ‘em up and let us know how we did.

There's a lot riding on the electorate this time, if you accept what's been dominating the media all week.

California is facing financial disaster six times over, with Governor Schwarzenegger spending what little remains of his political capital trying to get people  to vote for measures 1A through 1F.

Republicans, at least those conservative enough to make it to the statehouse in Sacramento, are urging just the opposite. They're openly relishing the spectacle of Schwarzenegger and the Democrats being blamed if California fails.

But for many who follow state politics, the results on Tuesday night will be scanned most closely for what they say about the public standing of Antonio Villaraigosa.

The mayor has not had a good week. Or month, or year – considering that he only won reelection with a soft 55% of the vote against no serious competition.

He's now facing deep painful cuts in public services and insurrection from the city unions. He suffered a rebuke when a City Council panel voted to put a freeze on the mayor's campaign promise to add a thousand new police officers.

And on Thursday, the mayor woke up to a real breakfast spoiler. Over at LA, our lead item was a cover story in Los Angeles Magazine that summed up the Villaraigosa years so far in one word.

Failure. There was nothing subtle about it.

The conclusion was splashed across a cover photo of the mayor smiling in better times -- before his affair with Mirthala Salinas became public, and before many supporters looked at the mayor's record and began to ask, “Is that all there is?”

The magazine's piece, which hits mailboxes and newsstands this weekend, comes in the form of an open letter to Villaraigosa. It doesn't hold back in expressing disappointment with his tenure.

Writer Ed Leibowitz says that in this mayor's office, politics almost always trumps policy. It charges Villaraigosa with betraying the voters who believed he could love the city more then he loves himself.

Harsh words to level at a Los Angeles native who prides himself on his adoration of L.A. The explicit message is that Villaraigosa should realize the city is in crisis and do the right thing by giving up his interest in running for governor.

He'd have to start running any day now, and with the city on the brink of financial collapse it already looked bad for him to show up in a tux at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last weekend later – schmoozing with celebrities on the wrong coast.

The magazine urges Villaraigosa to call a press conference and announce that he's canceling his higher ambitions for the moment.

Remind us, wrote Leibowitz, that he stands for more than the political advancement of Antonio Villaraigosa, and still has some residual greatness about him.

The mayor laughed off a question about the failure headline at a press conference in City Hall. But was his pinched, irritated smile that says I'm not enjoying this at all.

On Tuesday night, we'll find out a little more about the mayor's political status when voters either accept or reject Jack Weiss, his ally running for City Attorney against Carmen Trutanich.

The results in the Judy Chu-Gil Cedillo race for Congress could also be telling for Villaraigosa.

Then we'll have one more special election thankfully out of the way, and be able to rest up a little before the next one.

In the meantime, watch for Antonio's big decision. A lot's riding on it.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.