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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa under fire for "Fix the Debt" association

Angela Garcia Combs says she gathered more than 20,000 signatures urging Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to withdraw from
Angela Garcia Combs says she gathered more than 20,000 signatures urging Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to withdraw from "The Coalition to Fix the Debt," which she argues is dominated by Republicans trying to slash social programs. (12/11/12)

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Angela Garcia Combs stood outside Los Angeles City Hall with a box of petitions

“I’m not an activist,” she said. “With the exception of the fifth grade, I’ve never initiated a petition before.”

At Bushard Elementary School, Combs gathered signatures demanding that the principal allow girls to wear open-toe sandals, like the boys.

Four decades later, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s decision to join “The Campaign to Fix the Debt” prompted her to circulate a petition again.

“I cannot accept him lending his name and our good city’s name to ‘Fix the Debt,’” said Combs, who writes theater criticism, essays and screenplays.

Combs, 50, said she collected more than 20,000 signatures through on a petition urging Villaraigosa to withdraw from the group. She heard about his move only two weeks ago.

Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson lead “Fix the Debt.” It bills itself as a non-partisan effort to address the federal deficit.  But Combs and other Democrats argue that Republicans bent on slashing social programs dominate the group. The Huffington Post reports that Republicans have donated the most money to “Fix the Debt.”

“I smell a rat,” Combs said as she delivered a box of petitions to the mayor’s office in a bit of political theater.

“I joined 'The Campaign to Fix the Debt' because progressive Democrats need to shape the economic debate,” Mayor Villaraigosa said in a statement. “I have called on 'Fix the Debt' to continue expanding our bi-partisan coalition. Only by talking with each other – and working together – can we tackle the nation’s toughest challenges.”

The mayor said he opposes the privatization of Social Security and turning Medicare into so called voucher care. He also said he supports letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent of American earners.

But he supports reforming entitlement programs. A spokesman said those might include raising the retirement age for Social Security and other federal benefits.

“I believe we can – and must – reform Social Security and Medicare as part of a balanced approach to the nation’s fiscal challenges," Villaraigosa said. "These reforms are needed to strengthen our essential entitlement programs for generations to come.”

Combs, for her part, brandished a warning to any other Democrat who's thinking of joining “Fix the Debt.”
“We’re coming after you, so don’t join this organization,” she said.

Combs, who voted for Villaraigosa, said she wouldn’t again if he ever seeks another office. The mayor is termed out next year, and he's rumored to be seeking a job with the Obama administration.