Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina on Wednesday endorsed longtime supporter Mike Hernandez, as expected, in the special June 4 election to fill the seat she held on the Los Angeles City Council.
Molina said in a statement that of the six candidates vying for the 1st District seat, the 38-year-old Hernandez, a Cypress Park insurance agent, is the best choice because of his long involvement in civic affairs, dating to 1977 when he served as secretary-treasurer of the Highland Park Optimist Club.
"He has a history of commitment to our community," Molina's statement said. "Mike has lived here all his life; he has his family here, and he understands the concerns of the people who live in our neighborhoods."
Molina added that Hernandez's roles with the Eastside Voter Registration Project and More Advocates for Safe Homes of Los Angeles make Hernandez "the best choice for the City Council."
The endorsement came as no surprise since Hernandez had supported Molina on many issues since the mid-1980s, including opposition to the proposed state prison in the southeast corner of downtown Los Angeles.
The endorsement bolstered the belief, held by many in the district, that Hernandez is the front-runner in the race to succeed the popular Molina, who carried the council district by a wide margin last November when she defeated state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) for the supervisor seat.
According to campaign statements filed last month at City Hall, Hernandez has raised more than twice as much money--nearly $46,000--as any of the five others in the race to fill the last two years of Molina's term.
With such Molina backers as longtime aide Alma Martinez and Olvera Street restaurateur Vivien Bonzo deciding against entering the race, some of Hernandez's rivals thought it would only be a matter of time before Molina endorsed him.
"Molina told me early on that she was going to endorse Mike Hernandez," said rival candidate Sandra Figueroa. "I'm not surprised."
Figueroa, who has endorsements from retiring Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg and Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), has indirectly criticized Molina's role in the race by suggesting that the supervisor is practicing machine politics.
Others candidates complained that the endorsement may make it harder for them to get their message to the public.
"The endorsement will give the perception that the candidate of her choice is the right candidate for the job," said affordable housing advocate Frank Juarez Foster. "And that's not necessarily so."
Hernandez said he was happy to receive Molina's support.
"I want to follow her agenda of holding government more accountable," he said.