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After law school, and subsequent bar exam failure, he became a field representative/organizer with the United Teachers Los Angeles where he organized teachers and was regarded as a gifted advocate.
Attendees to his first inauguration included then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; former Governors Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, and Jerry Brown; former Vice President Al Gore, U. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Villaraigosa was re-elected in 2009, receiving 55.65% of the vote against his most prominent challenger, attorney Walter Moore who won 26.23% of the vote.
He was term limited and could not run for re-election in 2013.
He continues to be actively engaged in education, civic engagement, water, immigration, transportation, and economic development issues.
Within his first term, he was selected to serve as Democratic Assembly Whip and Assembly Majority Leader.