updated 4/23/2005 10:39:54 PM ET 2005-04-24T02:39:54

Mayor James Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa traded more verbal punches Saturday in their final debate, an edgy exchange in which both candidates said they could best lead the city to a prosperous future.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

As in their previous encounters, much of the debate was devoted to sharp and at times personal jabs over each other’s integrity and suitability for running the nation’s second-largest city.

Struggling in the polls, Hahn assumed the role of a challenger, accusing Villaraigosa of being the candidate of inertia and shopworn ideas.

“(Villaraigosa) wants to defend the status quo,” said Hahn, who is seeking a second, four-year term. “I changed the status quo. ... We can’t afford to go back to the failed policies of the past.”

Allegations of corruption
Villaraigosa, a city councilman, repeated his campaign line that Los Angeles needed a change of direction. He faulted Hahn repeatedly for the ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall, in which authorities are looking into allegations that city contracts were exchanged for campaign donations.

“We need ... a mayor who’s going to give us a fresh start,” Villaraigosa said. The campaign “is about the next four years.”

Hahn responded by saying that “no one has found that anyone has done anything wrong in my administration so far.”

The debate, sponsored by the La Opinion newspaper, provided a stage for the candidates to reach into the city’s large Hispanic community. Villaraigosa, the son of a Mexican immigrant, occasionally broke into Spanish during the debate and even Hahn attempted to speak the language.

Hahn, 54, came into the debate needing to turn around polls that show him trailing Villaraigosa, 52, by a double-digit margin. The May 17 election is a rematch — Hahn defeated Villaraigosa in a runoff four years ago.

Under the cloud of the City Hall investigation, Hahn has sought for weeks to shift questions about competence and credibility to Villaraigosa — a line of attack he continued in the debate.

Assault charge resurfaces
For the first time in the race, Hahn referred obliquely to a case nearly 30 years ago in which Villaraigosa apparently was charged with assault. Hahn said that when Villaraigosa headed the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter, he “advocated due process for gang members.” He added: “Due process has even benefited you personally.”

Villaraigosa later said he did not know what Hahn was talking about, and Hahn declined to elaborate.

According to a 1994 Los Angeles Times article, Villaraigosa acknowledged that he was arrested in 1977 for what he said was an assault on a man who attacked his mother during a fight at a restaurant. Villaraigosa said he was charged with misdemeanor assault and later acquitted by a jury.

Records for the case could not be located, the newspaper said.

Hahn has also criticized Villaraigosa for writing a 1996 letter seeking the pardon of a convicted cocaine dealer and his past opposition to the use of court injunctions to break up gangs.

Villaraigosa said Hahn was trying to frighten voters by unfairly linking him to crime and drugs.

“Four years ago, Jim Hahn attempted to create a climate of fear around my candidacy, to somehow associate me with drugs and gangs. That’s why he says gang injunction and my name almost every single day,” Villaraigosa said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments