When it came to fielding a question Tuesday on whether he's going to endorse someone to succeed him as Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa dropped a name that surprised many attending his lunch address at the Sacramento Press Club.
It wasn't Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel.
"You know, I said this to Mitt Romney yesterday on the telephone and I actually said it to him a couple months ago at a dinner right after the election, I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to put their name on the ballot, run for president of the United States, in this case run for mayor, so I hold both individuals in high regard."
Reporters in the room were abuzz -- and atwitter -- with speculation about why Villaraigosa has been dining and talking with last year's GOP nominee.
The Los Angeles Democrat -- a Democratic National Convention chairman and President Barack Obama campaign surrogate rumored on the short list for an administration appointment -- didn't give much more detail after his speech, except that he had previously met the former Massachusetts governor at a dinner with a guest list of mostly Republican leaders.
"You know, I have a couple of Republican friends who kind of think that I'm challenging my friends from time to time, and they like it," said Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa didn't shy from challenging his friends during his remarks Tuesday, urging fellow Democrats in the California Legislature to get behind the education policies he supports that are largely opposed by powerful teachers' unions.
"I want to work the Democrats and Republicans alike," he said. "President Obama, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, anybody who wants to move our country, our state, our cities to a better place."
And, for the record, Villaraigosa isn't endorsing Garcetti or Greuel -- the two Democrats competing in next month's runoff election -- for now.
"I did, after all, encourage my friends to be bolder and to speak out on the issue of education reform," Villaraigosa said. "And I'd like to see them swing to the fences."
PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks before the Sacramento Press Club, in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli).