LOS ANGELES – Basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson (search) endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor Monday, giving the challenger one of the race's prized endorsements and another A-list supporter in the politically crucial black community.
Speaking at one of his health clubs in the San Fernando Valley (search), Johnson's announcement became as much a denunciation of Mayor James Hahn's leadership as an embrace of Villaraigosa's candidacy. The former Los Angeles Lakers star said the administration had been crippled by an ongoing corruption investigation.
"You can't point to the Hahn administration and find 10 things he has accomplished because he was so bogged down by the scandal situation," Johnson said. "The city was not moving forward."
One of Southern California's (search) most popular figures and now a successful businessman, Johnson endorsed Hahn over Villaraigosa in their runoff four years ago, part of a surge of black support that helped secure Hahn's victory in 2001.
The May 17 mayoral election is a rematch of that race, in which Hahn defeated Villaraigosa 53 percent to 46 percent.
Johnson was outraged, like many blacks, when Hahn helped push out the city's black police chief, Bernard Parks, in 2002. There were other problems, too — most important, Hahn's failure to do more to create jobs, Johnson said.
"I expected him to be like his dad, and that didn't happen," Johnson said, referring to late county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, a revered figure in the Los Angeles black community.
Hahn's campaign dismissed the value of the endorsement.
"Villaraigosa got lots of endorsements in the last race. Did they matter? If they mattered then, he would have been elected mayor in 2001," consultant Kam Kuwata said.
Earlier in the day, Hahn proposed a series of reforms for troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, which serves largely black South Los Angeles.