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Obama taps Villaraigosa, Longoria, others to co-chair campaign

February 22, 2012 | 12:34 pm

Eva Longoria, a cast member in "Desperate Housewives," looks on during a panel discussion on the show at the Disney ABC Television Critics Association Press Tour in January. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Seven Californians, including Los Angeles’ mayor, its top labor leader, two Hollywood stars, a billionaire entrepreneur from San Francisco, the state’s attorney general and the first Chinese American congresswoman, joined President Obama’s campaign Wednesday as national co-chairs.

The campaign named 35 people to the largely ceremonial posts, touting them as a diverse group that will advocate for the president, advise the campaign and motivate voters. The co-chairs include governors, senators, mayors, veterans, civic activists and allies from Chicago, including two former White House chiefs of staff, Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of the president’s hometown.

“The president’s national co-chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history,” Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager said in a statement. “They each share the president’s vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”

Two Hollywood stars are among the luminaries named to the campaign: Eva Longoria, the “Desperate Housewives” actress, and Kalpen Modi, who played Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the TV show “House” and Kumar Patel in the "Harold and Kumar" movies. Modi, whose stage name is Kal Penn, left acting for a time to serve in Obama’s White House as associate director of the Office of Public Engagement, which aims to combat the president’s isolation in Washington by increasing his contact with the public.

Calling the election “a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement:  “November’s election will provide voters with a clear choice: On the one side is a President who is fighting to create jobs, investing in our future, and working to reform our immigration system. On the other side is a Republican Party that is rejecting common-sense jobs measures, gutting investments in our future, and espousing 'self-deportation' policies that divide us as a nation.”

Villaraigosa, who is in his last term and weighing his political future, was also recently named chairman of the Democratic National Convention. He will preside over the event in Charlotte, N.C., in September and serve as its spokesman. He has recorded videos in English and Spanish inviting Americans to send in their suggestions on how to make the convention the most open in American history.

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said the president “has worked tirelessly to provide relief for struggling middle-class families and to lay a foundation for a strong economy that’s built to last.”

Entrepreneur Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com, was registered as an independent voter in 2010. In the last presidential election, he donated to Obama and his GOP opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Benioff’s company provides sales software through cloud computing. Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.9 billion last year. Benioff said he backs Obama because “his focus on American jobs and support for companies that create jobs here in America are just what we need to keep this recovery moving.”

Also among the co-chairs are Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Rep. Judy Chu, who was elected in 2009 to succeed Hilda Solis, who is Obama’s Labor secretary.



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-- John Hoeffel at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Eva Longoria, an actress on "Desperate Housewives," is one of 35 national co-chairs for President Obama's campaign. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press