Los Angeles County, First District
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina is a proud daughter of a Mexican mother and a Mexican-American father. She grew up in the Pico Rivera area and is the eldest of ten children. Accustomed to hard work since childhood, Molina understood from a young age that many people do not have advantages and that eliminating unfair barriers is the best way to ensure equal opportunity. After graduating from El Rancho High School, Molina co-founded Comisión Femeníl Mexicana Nacional—a service and referral center for Chicanas in the East Los Angeles area. A ground level participant in the Chicano Power Movement of the 1970s, Molina’s interest in politics quickly took hold and in the late 1970s, she served in both the Carter White House and the San Francisco Department of Health and Human Services.
Molina first made history when voters of the 56th Assembly District elected her to represent them in the California State Legislature in 1982. Her triumph immediately symbolized the growing might of the Latino electorate in Los Angeles. As the first Chicana elected to the legislature, her victory also marked the advent of Latinas rising to positions of formidable political power in California. She waged her Assembly drive much as she would her future campaigns—at the grassroots level and against the Chicano power elite’s chosen candidate. And although she lent her political muscle to a variety of issues, it was her lengthy but successful fight against situating a state prison in the Boyle Heights area that made her a local legend.
But it was in 1991 when Molina made serious headlines by becoming the first Latina ever to join the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing the First District. She quickly developed a reputation as a fiscal watchdog committed to good government reforms, maintenance of the county’s public health care delivery system, and quality-of-life issues—particularly for the one million county residents residing in the unincorporated areas. Named as one of the Democratic Party’s “10 Rising Stars” by TIME magazine in 1996, Molina served as one of four Vice Chairs of the Democratic National Committee through 2004. During the 2000 Presidential Election, Molina was one of 15 top women leaders nationwide to be named as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate by the White House Project, a non-profit, non-partisan group dedicated to raising awareness of women’s leadership in American politics.