A CASUAL AFFAIR….Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is considered a rising star in Democratic politics, and a likely candidate for statewide office in the not-too-distant future, so one might wonder if a personal incident like this one will undermine his long-term chances.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife, acknowledged in a statement published Tuesday that he is in a relationship with a Spanish-language television reporter.

“It is true that I have a relationship with Ms. Mirthala Salinas,” Villaraigosa said in a statement published in the Los Angeles Daily News. “As I’ve said I take full responsibility for my actions, and I once again ask that people respect my family’s privacy. For my part, I intend to stay focused on my job, and to work as hard as I can every day to be the best mayor I can be.”

Villaraigosa had previously declined to comment, but issued the statement after the paper told him it was set to publish a story about his relationship with the Telemundo newswoman.

Now, I’m not going to justify Villaraigosa behavior, which I think is wrong, but any suggestion that his future political career is in trouble because of this strikes me as overstated.

Indeed, as luck would have it, Villaraigosa owes a debt to national Republicans, who effectively broke the mold when it comes to adultery and seeking higher office. An article I wrote a year ago for the Washington Monthly seems apropos, given the context.

Put it this way, if Rudy Giuliani can march with his mistress in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, tell his wife he’s leaving her via a press conference, launch a presidential campaign shortly thereafter, and then receive warm praise from TV preacher Pat Robertson, I think it’s safe to say Antonio Villaraigosa should be able to run for governor in a few years without too much trouble.

I realize there may be a double-standard, and Democrats’ affairs capture the media’s attention more than Republicans’ affairs, but there’s no way Villaraigosa’s future could be finished because of this incident, is there?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.