Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attends the Team Maria benefit for Best Buddies at Montage Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Aug. 18, 2013.
Amanda Edwards—WireImage/Getty Images
January 23, 2015 10:34 AM EST

Speculation is heating up that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might run for an open Senate seat in California.

So far, Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is the only candidate who has officially announced a bid for the seat that Sen. Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016. But Villaraigosa, also a Democrat, has been actively exploring a run, taking meetings and seeking advice from people such as his successor, current L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

If Villaraigosa ran, it would set up a major fight between two Democrats in one of the biggest, most expensive blue states in the country — a prospect that many national Democrats hope to avoid. With other top contenders — billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — also opting out, it could be the difference between a cakewalk for Harris or a real dogfight.

Here are five things you need to know about Villaraigosa:

1. His last name is a combination of his and his ex-wife’s. He was born Antonio Villar, and her name was Corina Raigosa. They joined their last names to create Villaraigosa.

2. Villaraigosa first ran for mayor in 2001 and lost. Two years later he won a seat on the city council and finally won the mayor’s office in 2005.

3. He has failed the bar exam four times (and never ended up passing).

4. He developed a benign tumor on his spine when he was a teenager that causes him recurring pain and has required two surgeries.

5. He has four kids.

 

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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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