So the political telegraph tells us that California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is on the White House list of potential labor secretaries.
Not that Pérez would acknowledge it, even if true. That would be a breach of political decorum.
“Look, I’m always flattered if somebody thinks my work is worthy of other consideration, but I’m focused on being speaker for these next two years,” he told The Sacramento Bee. “And continuing to build back our economy, and continuing to build on the fiscal discipline that we’ve created here in California. And getting people back to work.”
That said, were President Barack Obama to name Pérez to his Cabinet, it would not only add more cement to Obama’s relations with the fast-growing Latino community but would alleviate a political headache for Los Angeles County’s single most influential political figure, Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the county Labor Federation.
Hilda Solis, a onetime congresswoman, resigned as labor secretary to return to Los Angeles and run for one of the five ultrapowerful seats on the county’s Board of Supervisors next year. The incumbent, Gloria Molina, is being forced out by term limits.
Solis is Durazo’s hand-picked candidate. In the tightly knit Latino politics of Los Angeles, she’s therefore considered a shoo-in.
Pérez is also being forced out of the Assembly next year by term limits and there’s no other office, such as a state Senate or congressional seat, immediately available in or around his central Los Angeles turf. A run for the Board of Supervisors would be his next natural step. For now, he has said he’d run were Solis not a candidate, but with her candidacy a virtual certainty, the Cabinet might be his only consolation prize.
There’d be a decidedly ironic element to such an appointment. Pérez’s cousin, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’ll also be termed-out later this year, also has been casting around for another office to keep his up-and-down political career going.
Villaraigosa, who is personally close to Obama, had reportedly been seeking a Cabinet position himself, such as secretary of transportation. But that’s not happening, for whatever reason – perhaps because he got himself photographed palling with Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen at the latter’s opening of a new bar in Cabo San Lucas. It was not Villaraigosa’s first foray into tabloid notoriety.
The mayor is now publicly boosting Pérez for the Cabinet. “I heard my cousin by the way is on the list and I’m glad he is. I’ve said to a number of people he would make a great secretary of labor,” Villaraigosa said in an online chat, adding, “I wish him luck.”
If it doesn’t happen, what does an unemployed Assembly speaker do with himself?
Maybe he and Villaraigosa could do an LA spinoff of the cable TV show “Cousins on Call.”
Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him at [email protected]