Hank Lacayo, the civic and political activist from Newbury Park, has been a major player in national and state Democratic politics for decades. As the former United Auto Workers political director under Walter Reuther, Lacayo, 77, has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Cesar Chavez and the Kennedy brothers.
I once was reporting a story on Hank being honored at a party during the 2000 Democratic National Convention when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made a point of telling me that had it not been for Lacayo's early support, "I'd have never been elected to Congress." Another time, when I told Gray Davis a story that Lacayo had told me, the then-governor responded: "If Hank said it, then it must be true."
Last week, I got the chance to speak briefly with John Perez, the new speaker of the California Assembly. Perez, 40, is also a former union political director, having worked with the United Food & Commercial's local in Southern California. So I asked Perez if he knew Lacayo. "Hank? I've known Hank since I was 22," he said.