By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat known for championing public transportation projects, indicated on Saturday he is considering a run to succeed U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who has ruled out seeking re-election in 2016.
Villaraigosa had been seen as a possible candidate, and he is the most high profile politician to express interest in running since Boxer, a leading liberal voice in the Senate, announced on Thursday she would not campaign for another term.
Two popular Democrats, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and state Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, are seen as strong contenders if they choose to run for Senate in this lopsidedly blue state where their party holds all statewide elective offices.
Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2005, becoming the city's first Latino mayor since the 19th century. He was reelected in 2009 and was forced out of office by term limits in 2013.
"The urgency of the needs of the people of this great state have convinced me to seriously consider looking at running for California's open Senate seat," Villaraigosa wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday.
Villaraigosa said too many Californians are struggling to make ends meet and send their children to college, and he described Boxer, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, as a strong progressive leader.
During his second term, Villaraigosa was seen as a top contender to join President Barack Obama's cabinet as secretary of transportation, after he developed a funding plan for accelerating transit projects and pushed for extending a Los Angeles subway line toward the city's westside.
Villaraigosa, a high-school dropout, onetime labor activist and son of a Mexican immigrant, also made education reform a major focus as mayor. He sought greater control of Los Angeles schools, but suffered a number of political defeats in struggles with the local school district.
In a setback for Villaraigosa's public image, he endured a high-profile divorce after it was revealed in 2007 he was having an affair with a Spanish-language television reporter.
Villaraigosa derived his last name as a combination of his original surname Villar and that of his former wife, Corina Raigosa, whom he married in 1987.
After leaving office as mayor of the nation's second largest city, Villaraigosa worked for a time at public relations firm Edelman. He is currently a professor at the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy.
(Editing by Andrew Hay)