Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) will serve as chairman of the Democratic National Convention in September in Charlotte, N.C.
“Mayor Villaraigosa has dedicated his career to civic engagement and empowering people at the grassroots,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a news release Wednesday. “And that’s exactly what we need to be successful at this convention — input and engagement from Americans across the country.”
The post will give Villaraigosa, a rising star in the Democratic Party, a prominent platform to raise his profile on the national stage. It also gives him a central role in efforts to reelect President Obama, retake control of the House and maintain a Democratic majority in the Senate.
“At this convention we want to engage Americans in a conversation about how we can strengthen the country in a way that creates more opportunity for all,” Villaraigosa said.
The Los Angeles mayor speaks frequently on behalf of Hispanic Democrats and is the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He flirted with a run for governor in 2010, but ultimately decided against getting in the race.
Republicans on Tuesday noted that Villaraigosa was a former labor organizer, hoping to tie his selection to a controversy over Democratic plans to reserve contracts for the convention to union firms despite the low number of union workers available in right-to-work North Carolina.
“The Democratic National Convention has once again reinforced its commitment to paying off union allies at the expense of Charlotte businesses,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Matt Connelly.
Democrats are hoping that by holding their nominating convention in the key swing state of North Carolina, they can give Obama a boost there and possibly carry the state in November. Obama won North Carolina in 2008, but just barely, besting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by just 14,000 votes.
— This post was published at 7:26 p.m. Tuesday and has been updated.