Op-Ed: Villaraigosa as Governor


Villaraigosa as Governor

Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten      

On June 5th, the score card on who will be the contenders for the gubernatorial race in California will be set in print.  While there are 27 candidates vying for this coveted role, only 2 will be chosen by voters.  As leading media outlets are paid to do, they provide polls and commentary projecting the winners of the upcoming primaries; however, if recent years have taught us anything, polls of this nature are often not based in reality or hold much credibility.  At the end of the day, it’s the voters’ voice that matters.

For decades, California has been seen as a bright blue state, regardless of the party of our governor.  Our current governor, Jerry Brown, and his Senate, have burdened our State with billions of dollars to build a train that will unlikely have a tangible benefit, and has turned our Central Valley into a dustbowl, which has severely impacted our farms and its workers.  These two topics alone deserve their own attention and outcry; though for me personally, one of the most egregious failures of California’s leadership is the shameful state of our public healthcare system – specifically Medi-Cal, which for all intents and purposes, is broken.  While millions of Californians have a Medi-Cal benefits ID card in their wallet, the obstacles to simply identify specialists, afford one’s share of cost, or even receive medical care results in far too many people unable to get the help they need.  What’s worse is that for those adults diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, almost all of our City’s major hospitals and specialists do not accept HMO Medi-Cal; thus patients are going without care.

Many people might not find these topics of interest, as they have no impact on their daily lives.  However, for hundreds of thousands of Californians, specifically in Greater Los Angeles, this governmental breakdown has resulted in needless suffering and irreparably broken families.

As we closely examine our candidates, we must look at what they bring to the healthcare table, as well as their commitment to our State’s most vulnerable people.  From time to time, I’ve written articles about my own experiences with various politicians, and most recently about my personal relationship over the past 30 years with President Donald J. Trump.  With this in mind I am writing to convey my endorsement and support for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor.

When I first met Antonio, he was Speaker of the California State Assembly.  What struck me most was his dedication to bettering our healthcare system to help ensure that those in need could receive medical care, regardless of their ability to pay.  He was especially concerned with the countless number of children in our State whose families could not afford health insurance. This inspired him to author Healthy Families, a California public benefits program, which has served more than 750,000 children in our State.  Without question, this life-saving program stands as one of Antonio’s hallmark legislative accomplishments, and reflects his commitment to best serving our families.  As Mayor, Antonio was also never shy about challenging the stagnant educational system, knowing that in addition to needing our children to be healthy, it is imperative for them to be well educated – as this is vital for their future success regardless of race, religion, or creed.

A tenet of Judaism is to foster a healthy and prosperous population.  This principle is biblically illustrated with the story of Jacob arriving at the city of Shechem, where he helped form institutions of public hygiene, marketplaces, and monetary policy.  Jacob knew the vital importance for everyone to have an equal opportunity to thrive, and as one of our Patriarchs, his legacy is indelibly etched into the moral fiber of our lives today.

On a broader level, while we are all applauding the great accomplishment of our President in moving the U.S. Embassy to the holy city of Jerusalem, let us remember that 8 years ago, Antonio stood on the democratic convention national stage in front of millions of people and proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital.  He has personally visited Israel, and I can say without hesitation, that Antonio places great value on the heritage of the Jewish people and its rightful land.

As Jewish residents of the great City of Los Angeles, we have an obligation to vote in next week’s primary and thank G-d we have the freedom in our country to choose the candidate we prefer.  With this in mind, I write this piece to share the assets I personally know Antonio possesses after watching him serve as our State Speaker, Councilmember, Mayor, and friend.  Antonio and I have spent time with each other’s families, sharing dinners, special occasions, and spirited discussions; though we may come from different backgrounds and religions – and I do not agree with all of his policies – there is no doubt that the Antonio I know remains dedicated to making every effort to help provide our State’s children and families the best possible foundation on which to pursue the dreams we all share for a bright future. This will be Antonio Villaraigosa as California’s next governor.