MUSIC: Ain't no stopping us now, we're on the move...
JEFFREY KAYE: In his victory speech last night to jubilant supporters, Antonio Villaraigosa, as he did during his campaign for mayor, downplayed his ethnicity. Instead, he promised to roll up his sleeves and be a bridge builder in governing America's second largest city.
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Our purpose is to bring this great city together. Our purpose is to draw fully and equally on the rich diversity of all our communities and neighborhoods.
JEFFREY KAYE: Villaraigosa, currently a city councilman, unseated an old nemesis, fellow Democrat James Hahn, who ran for a second term. Hahn trailed in the polls consistently in recent weeks, and, in the end, received only 41 percent of the vote.
During his campaign, Villaraigosa portrayed himself as a moderate who could bring LA's kaleidoscope of communities and subcultures together.
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: The way you speak to one part of Los Angeles, the way you speak to the rest: That a great city has to be a city where we're growing and prospering together, that we have to accept the proposition that in a city as diverse as this, that we should be judged by the content of our character, our contributions, but what we do, and not where we come from or what we look like.
JEFFREY KAYE: Villaraigosa will lead a city grappling with such diverse issues as growth, crime and gang violence, and ethnic tensions.
RAPHAEL SONENSHEIN: The voters were ready to make a change and were more than willing to have Villaraigosa be the agent of that change. And I think I'm a little surprised that those came together so strongly in such a large amount to create a landslide.
JEFFREY KAYE: Political scientist Raphael Sonenshein has written widely on the intersection of race, class and politics in Los Angeles. He says exit polls show Villaraigosa won largely because Hahn alienated groups -- blacks and conservative whites -- who had supported him in the past, and that Villaraigosa was able to capitalize on his reputation as a coalition builder.
RAPHAEL SONENSHEIN: For his victory, he drew everywhere in the city. That is what is so striking. He drew, first of all, overwhelmingly among Latinos. There's no question about that. But he did very well with white voters all around the city. He made a strong beachhead for a Latino candidate in the African American community. That may be the most significant long-term piece of information of this.
Conversely, what's hard for Hahn to have really had a chance here, is there's no part of the city where he had a truly enthusiastic, energized base of people who just couldn't wait to get out there and vote to reaffirm him as mayor.
JEFFREY KAYE: Despite Villaraigosa's historic win, the election never seemed to catch the public's interest, as evidenced at the polling booths. Only 30 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots.
The candidates, who faced each other in the mayor's race four years ago, campaigned as political moderates. With few substantive policy differences, the men attacked each other's integrity and honesty.
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: There you go again, Jimmy, failing to take responsibility for your actions.
JAMES HAHN: Well, I take responsibility, and if somebody shows me that somebody's done something wrong, I'll take responsibility when that happens. But that hasn't happened yet.
JEFFREY KAYE: Villaraigosa emphasized the ethical cloud hanging over the Hahn administration. Authorities are investigating allegations that City Hall insiders traded lucrative contracts for campaign contributions. Villaraigosa himself returned donations from employees of two Florida companies reportedly interested in seeking contracts at the airport.
The 52-year-old Villaraigosa, a charismatic campaigner, is a former union organizer who went on to become Speaker of the California State Assembly. His political achievements are far from his origins on LA's hardscrabble eastside, where he grew up the oldest of four kids raised by a single mother.
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: I lived in a home of domestic violence. I didn't have a father. I was an angry young man for a long time. And it was my mother who said to me, "You know, you could be angry for the rest of your life if you want, or you could just go and do it. You know, you can make excuses all your life or you can just take responsibility for your life." And I decided to take that road. And I'm glad I did.
JEFFREY KAYE: Now elected, Villaraigosa confronts the challenge of turning his campaign pledges into reality: His promise to hire 1,600 new cops, find solutions to LA's never-ending battle with traffic and increase the city's stock of affordable housing, all this in a city with a weak mayor system, where the city council holds most of the power. Villaraigosa will be formally sworn in as mayor on July 1.