Gloria Molina

Jesús Gloria Molina (May 31, 1948 – May 14, 2023) was an American politician who served as a member of the Los Angeles City Council, the California State Assembly, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Gloria Molina
Gloria Molina (cropped).jpg
Molina in 2007
Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 1st district
In office
December 1, 1991 – December 1, 2014
Preceded byPeter Schabarum
Succeeded byHilda Solis
Chair of Los Angeles County
In office
December 8, 2009 – December 7, 2010
Preceded byDon Knabe
Succeeded byMichael D. Antonovich (Mayor)
In office
December 7, 2004 – December 6, 2005
Preceded byDon Knabe
Succeeded byMichael D. Antonovich (Mayor)
In office
December 7, 1999 – December 5, 2000
Preceded byDon Knabe
Succeeded byMichael D. Antonovich (Mayor)
In office
December 6, 1994 – December 5, 1995
Preceded byYvonne Brathwaite Burke
Succeeded byMichael D. Antonovich (Mayor)
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 56th district
In office
December 6, 1982 – February 27, 1987
Preceded byArt Torres
Succeeded byLucille Roybal-Allard
Personal details
Born(1948-05-31)May 31, 1948
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 2023(2023-05-14) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseRon Martinez
Alma mater

Participating in the Chicano movement as a young activist, Molina entered politics in 1982, running in opposition to the powerful male-dominated Eastside political machine for a seat on the California State Assembly, becoming the first Latina elected to the Assembly. She had a long unbeaten streak in electoral politics, becoming the first Latina elected to the Los Angeles City Council and to the Board of Supervisors, and served on the board for 23 years. After terming out on the board, Molina ran again for the Los Angeles City Council in 2015, but was defeated by incumbent José Huizar.[1]

Molina was considered a trailblazer and helped revitalize Los Angeles's Grand Park and support the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes project, and has been said to have paved the way for future women and Latina politicians.[2] Grand Park in Los Angeles was re-named Gloria Molina Grand Park after her in 2023.

Early life and activismEdit

Molina at news conference in 1975

Molina was born on May 31, 1948, in Montebello, California, to Leonardo Castillo Molina and Concepción Molina, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico. She grew up as one of ten children in the Los Angeles suburb of Pico Rivera, attending El Rancho High School before going to East Los Angeles College and California State University, Los Angeles.[3][4] While attending college, she worked full-time as a legal secretary.[5] Then she became certified as an adult education instructor and taught clerical skills at the East Los Angeles Skills Center.[4]

Molina's early career was characterized by her involvement in the Chicano movement and advocating for women's health. An early accomplishment was when she started a Nurse Mentoring Program in an effort to address the country's shortage of nurses by partnering with local community colleges to encourage and help more students to pursue a nursing degree.[6]

Political careerEdit

Molina in her office in 1982

Before being elected to public office, Molina served in the Carter Administration as a deputy for presidential personnel.[7][8] After leaving the White House, she served in San Francisco as a deputy director for the Department of Health and Human Services.[5] She stated to the Los Angeles Times that she had seen that men had "kept dismissing the contributions of her and other women", which was why she ran for office in 1982.[9]

California State AssemblyEdit

In 1982, Art Torres vacated his seat in California's 56th State Assembly district due to redistricting, with Torres and Assemblymember Richard Alatorre making Richard Polanco run in the district. Molina had approached the two about running in the district, but was told that she could not since Polanco was running.[10] She ran anyway, and defeated Polcano to become the first Latina woman to be elected in the California State Legislature.[11][12] Her win would set the stage for a political feud between Torres and Molina, with supporters being called the Torristas and Molinistas.[13]

Los Angeles City CouncilEdit

Molina celebrating her win in the City Council in 1987

In 1986, the 1st district of the Los Angeles City Council was vacant due to incumbent Howard Finn's death, and the City Council decided that the district would be moved from the San Fernando Valley to Eastside Los Angeles. Now in a largely Latino district, Molina announced her candidacy for the special election.[14] She was mainly challenged by Larry Gonzalez, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education.[15] In the election, she defeated Gonzalez and two others by a landslide, making her the first Latina woman to be elected to the City Council.[16] She was succeeded in the State Assembly by Lucille Roybal-Allard.[17]

While on the council, Molina feuded with Richard Alatorre, who had been elected to the council in 1985.[13]

Los Angeles County Board of SupervisorsEdit

In 1990, Peter F. Schabarum decided not to run for re-election for the 1st district of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, but served an extra three months while the board redistricted under court orders to create a majority-Latino district.[18] That year, Molina announced that she would be running for the seat, being challenged by U.S. Representative Matthew G. Martínez and Art Torres.[19] The runoff election was between Molina and Torres, with Torres having a lead in fundraising for his campaign.[20] Although Molina was at a disadvantage financially, she still defeated Torres to become the first Latina to be elected to the Board of Supervisors.[21]

At her first meeting, she was described as "[giving] hints of the in-your-face approach that sometimes characterized her years on the City Council."[22] During her 23 years serving the Los Angeles County board of supervisors, she became known as a fiscal watchdog committed to overseeing good government reforms, maintenance of the county's public health care system, and also quality-of-life issues for the millions of county residents living in the unincorporated areas.[23]

One of Molina's significant achievements was her involvement with the Mothers of East Los Angeles, a group formed to organize against a proposed plan to build a prison in East LA.[6] As city councilwoman, she found government unresponsive to her concerns of yet another proposal to build a prison near schools in the predominantly Chicano and Mexican neighborhood. In the mid-2000s she drove through skid row looking for families with children and would call the Department of Family and Children Services, to help families and remove children from unsafe conditions.[24][25]

In 2008, Molina piloted a program that became known as the Gloria Molina Foster Youth Education Program.[26] This program attempted to improve the high school graduation rates of students in the foster care system. By committing social workers to aid in helping manage and track these students' academic success the program was able to raise the graduation rate from the national average of 58% to 80%. When Molina retired from her supervisor position in 2014 because of term limits, she stated that one of her biggest regrets was that she was not able to do more to improve the high school graduation rates amongst fostered youth.[27][25]

Post-political careerEdit

In 2014, facing a term limit on the Board of Supervisors, Molina announced that she was challenging 14th district incumbent José Huizar for his seat on the City Council.[28] She had stated that she had considered retirement before being asked to run from various people, and criticized Huizar for not heeding his constituents.[29][30] In the 2015 election, Huizar defeated Molina and other competitors by a landslide, avoiding the need for a runoff.[1][31]


Anti-food truck billEdit

In April 2008, Molina introduced legislation to the board of supervisors which would severely increase penalties on food vendors in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, including East L.A. The new rules would punish parking of a food truck for more than one hour with a $1000 fine and/or six months in jail. This move was specifically targeted at vendors operating taco trucks, a cultural institution in East L.A. as well as the county as a whole. Newspaper editorials decried the move, and a petition was quickly set up to attempt to force a repeal of the legislation. The taco vendors also hired a lawyer to fight their cause. The ordinance was ultimately struck down by a judge.[32][26]

Boycott of ArizonaEdit

In June 2010, Molina voted yes with two other Los Angeles County supervisors to boycott Arizona because of SB 1070. Molina said in her statement that the law "simply goes too far" and that "a lot of people have pointed out that I am sworn as an L.A. County supervisor to uphold the Constitution. All I can say is that I believe that Arizona's law is unconstitutional."[33]

Personal lifeEdit

Molina was married to Ron Martinez, a businessman, with the two having a daughter, Valentina Martinez.[4] She lived in the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno.

In March 2023, Molina announced that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer three years prior, and that she had been battling it with treatments but it had become very aggressive.[34] She died on May 14, 2023, seventeen days before her 75th birthday.[5]

Honors and legacyEdit

In April 2006, Molina was honored as the "Hispanic Business Woman of the Year" by Hispanic Business magazine.[25] In 2014, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College.[35] Molina also quilted, founding the East L.A. Stitchers and frequently knitting with the group until her announcement of terminal cancer.[36]

In 2023, after Molina's announcement of terminal cancer, Hilda Solis, Molina's successor on the Board of Supervisors, introduced a motion to rename Grand Park to Gloria Molina Grand Park, honoring her contributions to the park's redevelopment.[37] It was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors the day it was introduced.[38] A motion to endorse the renaming passing in the Los Angeles City Council, with Mayor Karen Bass also endorsing it. Another motion by councilmembers Monica Rodriguez and Kevin de León renamed the pedestrian crosswalks "Gloria Molina Legacy Pathway". A couple of days after, the Metro Board of Directors voted to dedicate the East LA Civic Center station to Molina.[39]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Incumbent Councilman Jose Huizar Leads Race For Council Seat". CBS News. March 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Scauzillo, Steve (March 14, 2023). "Groundbreaking ex-LA County supervisor Gloria Molina faces terminal cancer". Los Angeles Daily News.
  3. ^ Tobar, Hector (January 3, 1993). "THE POLITICS OF ANGER : A Passion for Attacking the System Has Made Gloria Molina One of the Country's Most Powerful Latino Politicians. But How Long Can She Continue To 'Govern By Tantrum'?". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ a b c Mydans, Seth (February 21, 1991). "Woman In the News: Gloria Molina; Hispanic Trailblazer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Arellano, Gustavo (May 14, 2023). "Gloria Molina, Chicana who blazed paths across L.A. politics, dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Flores, Edwin (March 15, 2023). "History-making Latina politician Gloria Molina announces she has terminal cancer". NBC News. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  7. ^ Romero, Dennis (May 14, 2023). "Groundbreaking politician Gloria Molina dies at 74". NBC News. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  8. ^ Galván, Astrid (May 15, 2023). "Chicana trailblazer Gloria Molina dies at 74". Axios. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  9. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (March 25, 2023). "Column: Gloria Molina's farewell message to L.A.: Don't be corrupt". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Castro, Tony (March 11, 1998). "Eastside Story". LA Weekly. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  11. ^ Klunder, Jan (February 4, 1982). "Molina Prepared to Face Challenge: First Hispanic Woman Legislator Expects Tough Going". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Acuña, Rodolfo F. (April 14, 2020). Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles. Verso Books. ISBN 9781786633804.
  13. ^ a b Ramos, George (November 2, 1992). "The Arguments for—and Against—a Run by Molina for Mayor". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Clayton, Janet (November 7, 1986). "Molina Says She Will Run for Council in New L.A. District: MOLINA: She'll Seek New Seat on Council". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 154870054.
  15. ^ Clayton, Janet (November 11, 1986). "Gonzalez to Fight Molina for Seat on L.A. Council: GONZALEZ: City Council Race". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 154870852.
  16. ^ Clayton, Janet (February 4, 1987). "Molina Wins 4-Way Race for 1st District Council Seat: Incomplete Source". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 814503693.
  17. ^ Clayton, Janet (February 26, 1987). "Molina, Ex-Rivals Agree on Candidate for Assembly Seat". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Simon, Richard (March 10, 1991). "Supervisors in Transition to New Districts, Constituents: Politics: Gloria Molina's election and new boundaries have forced board members to get acquainted with new communities". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Simon, Richard (November 14, 1990). "1st District Race Comes Into Focus: Supervisors: Rep. Martinez and state Sen. Torres prepare to join Gloria Molina and Sarah Flores as candidates. Alatorre bows out". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ "Torres Takes Big Lead in Fund Raising: Election: Labor contributes heavily to his bid for a county supervisorial post. Gloria Molina has collected about half as much". Los Angeles Times. February 14, 1991.
  21. ^ Edwards, Bob (February 20, 1991). "GLORIA MOLINA BECOMES NEW LA SUPERVISOR". National Public Radio.
  22. ^ Rainey, James (March 13, 1991). "A Noteworthy Day of Decisions for L.A. Supervisors: Latinos: Gloria Molina's first meeting as a board member gives hints of things to come". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 1639702487.
  23. ^ Clayton, Abené (May 15, 2023). "Gloria Molina, groundbreaking Chicana California leader, dies aged 74". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  24. ^ Sewell, Abby Sewell, By Abby (December 2014). "Outgoing L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina opts for new challenge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c "Gloria Molina". Mexican-American Cultural Education Foundation. January 27, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  26. ^ a b Rojas, Leslie Berestein (March 14, 2023). "Former LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, A Trailblazer Among Latina Politicians, Has Terminal Cancer". LAist. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  27. ^ "Foster kids get help to graduate". The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. February 21, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  28. ^ Smith, Dakota (September 5, 2014). "L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina to challenge L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar". Los Angeles Daily News.
  30. ^ Mejias, Antonio (February 6, 2015). "CD14 Candidates: Gloria Molina". Boyle Heights Beat.
  31. ^ Roderick, Kevin (March 3, 2015). "Councilman Huizar reelected without a fight". LA Observed.
  32. ^ Keegan, Rebecca Winters (April 25, 2008). "The Great Taco Truck War". Time. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  33. ^ "L.A. County boycott of Arizona approved by divided Board of Supervisors". June 1, 2010.
  34. ^ Lloyd, Jonathan (March 15, 2023). "Trailblazing LA Politician Gloria Molina Says She Has Terminal Cancer". KNBC.
  35. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  36. ^ Saucedo, Carlos (April 6, 2023). "Labor of Love: Group works to finish quilts started by former L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina". KTLA.
  37. ^ Ellis, Rebeca (March 21, 2023). "Downtown L.A.'s Grand Park to be renamed in honor of longtime Supervisor Gloria Molina". Los Angeles Times.
  38. ^ "DTLA's Grand Park to be renamed in honor of Gloria Molina". KTTV. March 21, 2023.
  39. ^ "Metro Votes to Dedicate East LA Civic Center Station to Honor Gloria Molina". KNBC. March 23, 2023.

External linksEdit

Offices held
California Assembly
Preceded by Member of the California Assembly
from the 56th district

December 6, 1982 – February 27, 1987
Succeeded by
Civic offices
Preceded by Member of the Los Angeles City Council
from the 1st district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 1st district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of Los Angeles County
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Preceded by Chair Pro Tem of Los Angeles County
Succeeded by
Michael D. Antonovich (Mayor Pro Tem)
Preceded by