The election is barely over, but the 2018 race for governor in California is on. On Thursday, a fourth Democrat, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said he will run.
The announcement came as no surprise to political observers, but still adds intrigue to an already-crowded Democratic field.
Villaraigosa said he has spent recent weeks on a "listening" tour around the state -- including spending significant amounts of time in the Central Valley and Inland Empire.
"What I've heard is that people want their voices heard, so this campaign and this candidacy is about giving voice to every Californian -- and particularly after this election, I think my candidacy is particularly poised to be an answer to the divisive nature of our politics," he said Thursday in an interview with KQED. "We need to be promoting unity, not division, and the answer to fear is hope."
Villaraigosa said he will focus on "the economy, the economy and the economy," including lifting people into the middle class, improving schools and addressing infrastructure needs and climate change.
He will have company as he seeks to introduce himself to voters outside of Los Angeles.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor, is the most well-known and high-profile candidate so far -- and got a serious jump on the contest, announcing his candidacy in 2015. Also in the race: state Treasurer John Chiang, who could offer a more moderate option to independent voters and centrist Democrats; and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a long-shot candidate who says she will focus on drawing attention to education funding.
Villaraigosa has long been expected to run, after declining to jump into the U.S. Senate race to succeed outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer. He's been laying the groundwork for his run with that "listening tour" in the Central Valley -- indicating he may run to the right of political rival Newsom.
Villaraigosa, a former Assembly speaker, is credited with improving and expanding Los Angeles' transit system during his eight years as mayor, and helping usher in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. But he also clashed with public employee unions when the economy soured, and remains on shaky terms with powerful labor forces in his hometown.
Villaraigosa also made headlines when he admitted to an extramarital affair with a television journalist who covered his administration; he divorced his wife and has since remarried. And he's been criticized for his business ties to the controversial Herbalife Ltd. company, which he's advised in recent years.
During his time as mayor, Newsom has had his own share of bad headlines as well, including an affair with an aide who was then married to a top adviser.
But both men's affairs are years in the past, and it's not clear whether they will be problems for voters.
Newsom spent much of this year raising money -- and his profile -- to push through two successful ballot measures: Proposition 63, to expand gun control in California, and Proposition 64, to legalize marijuana in the Golden State. Both passed handily on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Newsom sent an email out to supporters noting that Villaraigosa is in the race and asking supporters to donate to his campaign.
"He'll be a serious opponent, no doubt, but I believe in the team we've been building together over the past year and a half," Newsom wrote. "I know it's a tough time to ask you to dive into another race, but it's more important now than ever that we get to work. We cannot afford to take a break or slow down. Everyone's watching to see how we respond to this new challenge, and if you'll join me, we can show the media, potential endorsers -- and most importantly, the voters -- just how strong our team is."
For his part, Villaraigosa pledged to be a "uniter" who won't speak ill of his opponents. Villaraigosa said he plans to talk to voters over the next two years about the work he did as mayor and speaker. He ticked off a long list of accomplishments, including a plummeting homicide rate in Los Angeles during his tenure, improvements in schools, declines in pollution, and a commitment to providing health care for young kids.
"But campaigns aren't about the past, they are about the future," he said. "I think what's going to distinguish my candidacy is my vision for the future, a vision that brings us together, a vision that unites north and south, that says we are not rural or urban. We have to come together to grow our economy, to invest more in people, and to invest in a broader cross section of the state."