Jeanette Acosta

Major and Classification

Political Science, Psychology

Faculty Mentor

  • Ricardo Ramirez, Ph.D.


  • Political Science

McNair Project

Latino This, Latino That: The Role of Race in the Villaraigosa Mayoralty

For the first time in over 130 years, a Mexican-American served as mayor in the major metropolitan center of Los Angeles with the election of Antonio Villaraigosa. However, the question of whether or not such ethnic representation translates into ethnic policy in a city with more than 1.7 million Latinos remains unanswered. While the historic mayoral election in 2005 has been a landmark step forward for underrepresented minorities in politics, is there evidence that the ethnicity of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa actually has influenced the legislation and appointments proposed during his first elected term? This question will be investigated through three multi-faceted areas of focus: a comparative qualitative analysis of the unsuccessful and successful campaign strategies of Mayor Villaraigosa as described in selected Los Angeles Times articles; a qualitative analysis of the legislative priorities and governance strategies following the election of Mayor Villaraigosa as described in selected Los Angeles Times articles; and a comparative data analysis of the demographics of city commission appointments under the current Villaraigosa administration and the previous Hahn administration. More specifically, through an analysis of the Los Angeles Times archives this study will examine the social and political context of Mayor Villaraigosa’s ethnic identity, the growing culture of threat mentality in Los Angeles, and the local rise of political deracialization and race-neutrality. Due to the significant number of Latinos in Los Angeles and the unprecedented nature of his mayoral election as a minority, this research will examine the hypothesis that the ethnic identity of Mayor Villaraigosa did influence his actions while in office despite the rise of deracialization and threat mentality. Thus, this research also will explore the effects of race-conscious campaign strategy on subsequent governance strategy through the election and administration of Mayor Villaraigosa while contributing evidence to the enduring and controversial argument that race matters.