Riordan Backs Villaraigosa for L.A. Mayor

Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa's (search) mayoral campaign received an endorsement Friday from former Mayor Richard Riordan (search), a Republican with close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Villaraigosa and incumbent James Hahn (search), both Democrats, will face off in a May 17 runoff to lead the nation's second-largest city — a repeat of their race four years ago.

"What we need is somebody who is electric, somebody who is a leader, somebody who will bring hope to the people," said Riordan, now the state education secretary.

Riordan also supported Villaraigosa in the 2001 runoff, but Hahn grabbed the lion's share of votes from moderates, conservatives and Republicans.

Villaraigosa, a city Councilman and a former labor activist who once headed the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (search), has been trying to maneuver toward the political middle to attract right-leaning voters who spurned him four years ago.

Riordan said Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican, was unlikely to make an endorsement in the mayor's race but made it clear that the governor was aware of his plans to endorse Villaraigosa.

Hahn talked with Riordan after the March 8 primary but didn't ask formally for his endorsement, said Kam Kuwata, a Hahn consultant.

Kuwata dismissed the value of Riordan's involvement.

"Dick Riordan opens the door and the question is, 'Can Villaraigosa close the deal,'" Kuwata said. "He couldn't close the deal in 2001, and he won't close the deal in 2005."