"A lot of folks talk about how Antonio Villaraigosa was an education mayor. He spent his first three years of political capital on governance, on who takes over the school district," he added. "Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. But if you don't learn from that you're going to make the same mistakes."
Pleitez, who bills himself as a "progressive," says he wants to boost the graduation rate to at least 65 percent or higher, "and then obviously, I want to get to the top of the pack."
But Pleitez has experienced some trouble breaking through. Earlier this month, he failed to meet fundraising benchmarks to participate in a televised candidates debate. But a group of young supporters protested the event, chatting "Let Pleitez debate!," L.A. Weekly reported. Pleitez tells ABC/Univision he has been invited to at least half a dozen future candidate forums and debates.
Though the number seem stacked against him, Pleitez insists his campaign's use of technology and social media, as well as door-to-door contacts, will help him turn out enough of his voters to win on Election Day, especially from neighborhoods in East and South L.A. that have traditionally been neglected by other political campaigns. It's akin to a scaled-down version of President Obama's successful voter outreach strategy.
"My message sticks, it's a question of whether I get in front of the right voters," he said. " I'm completely confident that we're going to rise in the polls, especially in the next month or so. I don't care where I am now, I care where I am on March 5."