Mayor So-so

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

The ballots have been counted. The people have spoken. And Antonio Villaraigosa has been invited to remain the Nayor of Los Angeles for another four years. If he chooses.

For a guy who just won reelection without breaking much of a sweat, he’s not exactly riding high.

Villaraigosa got just 55% of the vote on Tuesday. That’s less than he got four ago when he beat the incumbent mayor, James Hahn, after a long and bruising campaign full of personal attacks on both sides.

Villaraigosa this time faced no such opposition, but still saw his share of the vote go down.

He split on his personal endorsements for the other citywide offices, with Wendy Greuel winning as Controller and Jack Weiss facing a tough runoff if he’s ever to become the City Attorney.

More stinging for Villaraigosa is that he and his Administration advocated strongly for Measure B, the solar power initiative. And despite being an assumed winner for most of the campaign, the measure looks to have lost.

There’s just not much love out there for Villaraigosa these days. Consider what happened when the mayor visited editors before the election, looking for their endorsements.

The LA Times editorial board compared him to the bland Hahn and said that Los Angeles lacks the buoyant civic spirit that so many voters expected Villaraigosa to create.

No one doubts his energy or enthusiasm, the Times editorial said. Then it went on to complain that too many Villaraigosa attempts at serious conversations about the city’s problems and future seem like little more than media campaigns.

There was a nod to his skills as a power broker and deal maker --- and a regret that he hasn’t done more with those talents. In the end, the Times gave its endorsement, but called him “just good enough.”

Philanthropist Eli Broad, a big backer four years ago, sounded half-hearted too … telling a reporter that he thinks Villararigosa has it in him to become a great mayor. Maybe. Some day.

Four years ago, the Daily News had ditched its previous backing of Hahn to call Villaraigosa the kind of new leader the city needed. This time, the headline on its endorsement said that “Unfortunately, there is no responsible choice but Villaraigosa.”

Partly that was a dismissal of the fakers who ran against Villaraigosa this time, and partly a way of saying that he’s been a bit of a disappointment.

Not a disaster. Not great or terrible. Just OK.

Almost no media outlet endorsed the mayor without reservations. Reporters gave his first term lukewarm reviews.

It’s all pretty far from four years ago when Villaraigosa finished well ahead of Hahn in the primary, trounced him in the runoff, and strolled triumphantly from the cathedral downtown to city hall through an adoring crowd of proud well wishers.

Being exposed as a serial cheater on the loyal wife who walked with him that day certainly dimmed the fervor of Villaraigosa’s fans. Many of them, anyway.

But it’s more than that. Four years of familiarity have revealed Villaraigosa as less deserving of the optimism and hopes that people attached to him.

He’s turned out to be less of a representative of their aspirations for the city, and more of a politician who plays the games and doesn’t really inspire.

After that election four years ago, Los Angeles Magazine asked me to do a profile of the rising star. The editor liked him, and saw Villaraigosa as a new breed. The next big thing.

This time around, we handled the race in a single fat paragraph.

If he runs for governor, as he’s likely to, Villaraigosa will no longer be the freshest face or the most exciting name in the race.

Four years ago it would have been impossible to think of Antonio Villaraigosa’s star shining less brightly than Jerry Brown’s. Or Gavin Newsom’s

But that just might be what happens.

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