Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declined to endorse either Democratic candidate in the May 21 runoff to succeed him.

The Buzz: Antonio Villaraigosa drops Mitt Romney's name, doesn't endorse a successor

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

Villaraigosa talks of chatting, dining with Mitt Romney

When it came to fielding a question Tuesday on whether he'll endorse someone to succeed him as Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa dropped a name that surprised many at his Sacramento Press Club lunch address.

It wasn't Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel.

"I said this to Mitt Romney yesterday on the telephone, and I actually said it to him a couple months ago at a dinner right after the election. I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to put their name on the ballot, run for president of the United States – in this case, run for mayor, so I hold both … in high regard."

Reporters there were atwitter with speculation about why he was dining and talking with last year's GOP nominee.

The Los Angeles Democrat didn't say much more after his speech, except he had previously met Romney at a dinner with mostly GOP leaders.

"You know, I have a couple of Republican friends who kind of think that I'm challenging my friends from time to time, and they like it," he said.

For the record, Villaraigosa isn't endorsing either Democrat Garcetti or Greuel in next month's runoff – for now.

"I did, after all, encourage my friends to be bolder and to speak out on the issue of education reform, and I'd like to see them swing to the fences."

BILL WATCH

Two Republican-backed measures to repeal a fire prevention fee levied on rural residents – AB 124 by Mike Morrell and AB 23 by Tim Donnelly – cleared an Assembly committee this week on bipartisan 5-2 votes. But the panel's chairman, Democrat Wesley Chesbro, who voted for both, questioned their long-term prospects: "The governor's not going sign a bill that blows a hole in the budget."

WORTH REPEATING

"We'll have a list of 9,000 or 10,000 of our finer inmates that will be ready for neighborhood visitations throughout California."

GOV. JERRY BROWN, saying that if appeals fail, the state will comply with a court order demanding that it reduce its prison population

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