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’?

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Hector Tobar is The Times' Los Angeles County bureau chief.

THERE IS A STORY GLORIA MOLINA TELLS again and again. All of her most loyal friends have heard it, as have her most bitter enemies.

It’s 1982 and Gloria Molina is an ambitious 34-year-old with a host of credentials in state and federal government. There is an open seat in the Assembly, a district in East Los Angeles, and she thinks she has a good chance of becoming the first Latina in the state Legislature. Two dozen of the most powerful Latinas in Los Angeles agree: Molina is their candidate.

So she walks into the office of then-Assemblyman Richard Alatorre, Democratic political boss of the Eastside, and asks for his support. But does he treat her with respect? Does he grant her what she deserves? Of course not, she relates, still angry years later. Alatorre’s a politician on a macho power-trip and he meets with “the guys” first. And the guys--other prominent Eastside Latino Democrats--decide: “Gloria, it’s not your turn.” They treat Molina like some no-name political flunky, and the person they pick is one of their own: Richard G. Polanco, a former aide to Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.


Molina is stunned. She’s paid her dues. She’s worked in their campaigns, walked their precincts, run their field offices. Now these men are pushing her around the way Latina women have always been pushed around. For a moment, she sinks into despair.

But then she pulls herself together and decides to run for the Assembly seat anyway. “ No se deja ,” she won’t be intimidated. She beats Alatorre’s handpicked candidate. As the years pass, she focuses on other posts: City Council, Board of Supervisors. Each time, Alatorre, now an L. A. city councilman, and his buddies run candidates against her. Each time, Molina wins, always beating “one of the guys.” And each time it is clear that Gloria Molina will never forget the people who have stood in her way.

“How many times do you let them sock you in the face?” she asks during an interview in her office at the County Hall of Administration, the windows open to a panoramic view of the Los Angeles Civic Center and the Financial District. “You keep forgiving and you keep forgiving. And now I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to deal with these guys. They walk on their side of the street, I walk on mine. . . . I hope you’re not suggesting that I should (forgive them). I don’t see any reason to. Am I supposed to be the Virgen de Guadalupe?” This is vintage Molina--cautious, down to earth, suspicious.

Her opponents, she is certain, would not forgive her were the roles reversed. “If I would have lost that first time (in 1982), they told me my name would be mud. They were not nice about it,” she says, agitated as though this happened yesterday. “Keep in mind, they were powerful people. They were accustomed to the role they played: Big chingones, they’re in charge. They didn’t want some pipsqueak like me coming in.”

Despite them, Molina has risen to become one of the most important Latino politicians in the country. At the relatively young age of 44, she is a Los Angeles County supervisor, representing 1.9 million people and one of the five people who oversee a $13-billion budget that provides social services for the county. On the Eastside, there is talk of a new “Molina political machine,” and come election time, men and women line up to ask her for endorsements and support.

She was considered to be a front-runner in the race for mayor until she decided in November month not to run. Political columnists speculated that she might accept a post in the Clinton Administration: She had campaigned for Clinton in four Western states and was one of a small group of Latino leaders picked to advise the president-elect’s transition team. And in an era of voter discontent, she is a member of that endangered species: the popular politician who remains in touch with the grass roots.


Yet almost every week she tangles with her fellow supervisors, alienating potential allies with sarcastic denunciations. She has made enemies of many county administrators; more than one has left the boardroom in disgust and disbelief after one of Molina’s public scoldings.

It is the paradox of her still-young political career: By championing the politics of anger and assuming the stance of the outsider fighting for her people, she has won victory after victory, rising to ever-greater heights of political influence. But some wonder if the outrage that she has tapped so successfully to build her reputation will, in the end, keep her from ultimate power.

THE CASUAL OBSERVER CAN GET A SENSE OF MOLINA’S STYLE BY VISITING the downtown Hall of Administration, the seat of Los Angeles County government. Her eighth-floor office, on the top floor of the tomb-like Temple Street building, used to belong to the man she succeeded, conservative Supervisor Pete Schabarum, a man nearly as headstrong and acerbic as she is. During an interview, Molina looks around at the decor and frowns. Schabarum has left her dark-wood paneling and an ersatz fireplace, complete with a heavy mantelpiece: “It’s too masculine” she says. She’d like to redo the whole place.

If she had her way, Molina would probably spend a lot of her time ripping out the paneling, both figuratively and literally, from most county offices. For her, the county’s bureaucracy is like some huge, dilapidated building where nothing works. What’s worse, this crumbling edifice is largely run, in her view, by a bunch of overpaid incompetents. And what they waste comes out of social services programs that serve her constituents.

So every Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors meets, Molina tries to make things right in county government. In her battle against its excesses, she pointedly shuns perks and personal affectations. Though a supervisor’s salary of $99,297 would buy better, she rarely wears anything flashier than a power-red blazer and a pair of basic-black pumps (her constituents have spotted her shopping at Payless Shoes), and she shows up for work in a Buick--rather than the chauffeur-driven, bulletproof car supplied to each county supervisor.

She takes center stage when she calls out the name of a county bureaucrat, puts him on the witness stand and transforms the hearing room into a court of inquisition.


Sept. 15 is a typical session. Much to the displeasure of her fellow supervisors, Molina is once again criticizing a controversial pension plan implemented before her election. The pensions for the county’s highest-paid administrators--some will collect more than $125,000 a year--are precisely the kind of high-level perk that she has been uncovering in the county for the past two years.

Molina wants to rescind the pensions but the bureaucrats tell her it’s too late. And the lecture begins.

“What we have here is a fiasco,” Molina tells the two dozen or so people scattered about the 700-seat auditorium. “There are a lot of serious questions that need to be answered.”

A county pension official steps up to the dais, and for the next 45 minutes, she is direct, abrasive, rude and unrelenting in her interrogation. The uneasy defendant shifts in his seat, fighting back questions about misspent funds, allegations of malfeasance, back-room deals and plain bureaucratic incompetence.

Molina waves her arms in emotional gestures, often shaking her finger like a teacher chastising a pupil. She is especially angry because no one can tell her with certainty whether the Board of Supervisors approved the pensions in an open meeting. She suggests that the pension board cooked up this scheme in private, with the supervisors’ consent, away from the light of public scrutiny. (The board did not act publicly on the pensions, but it is not yet clear whether it knew of the change or who approved of it.)

With a sarcastic smile, she says, to scattered laughter from the audience: “I want to know if the Board of Supervisors really runs this county.” Her fellow supervisors--four white men, each a full foot taller than she is--say little, and when they try to get in a word or two edgewise, she interrupts them: “Excuse me,” she says. “Excuse me!” They give in and yield the floor to her, as they almost always do. She interrupts the pension officials, too--sometimes even before they can complete their answers.


Finally, Supervisor Ed Edelman, a fellow Democrat and sometime ally, decides he’s had enough. “To insinuate that this was a back-room deal is to misrepresent the facts,” Edelman says. “It makes good headlines. . . . I frankly resent it.”

“Tough luck!” Molina snaps back. “Tell me when the elected members of the board, not some bureaucrat, decided in a public setting to undertake this expense that is now going to cost us $265 million. . . . Then I’ll shut my mouth!”

There were more than a few people in the board room that day who wished that Molina would do just that. Her detractors see her as an ill-informed blowhard trying to make points with voters and the media through grandstanding.

“The first couple of times she started attacking me personally, I was caught off guard,” says a county department chief, one of many bureaucrats at the receiving end of Molina’s verbal assaults. “I wasn’t sure how to react because I had never been treated that way by anyone I had worked for. To me, it’s like bullying. Someone who is bigger and stronger picking on somebody who has less power.”

This summer, during an especially bitter debate, conservative Supervisor Michael Antonovich accused her of “government by tantrum.”

Ask Gloria Molina why she inspires such enmity and she answers that she wasn’t elected to represent bureaucrats or her fellow politicians. Especially as budgets shrink and public needs grow, she believes that things must change, decorum and politeness be damned.


“Let’s face it, people who are vested in the status quo want it to keep rolling along that way,” she says. “Things are cool, right? Why change them? That’s a tough thing, to accept those changes and that kind of scrutiny.”

To Molina’s supporters, her tenacity on the county board is proof that she is a maverick who can shake up a corrupt, wasteful political system. And even some of her political foes agree that she has brought a new measure of accountability to county government.

“I respect and admire her ability to bring up issues on the Board of Supervisors, because they can’t do business as they once did,” says George L. Pla, an urban planning consultant and close Alatorre ally. “There is a place for that, and she does a tremendous job.”

In a city known for its bland political leaders, Molina is refreshingly colorful and media-genic. She is always quotable, often controversial, seemingly unconcerned about whom she might offend. At a recent press conference, for example, she laughed derisively when asked what she thought of the prospect of Richard Alatorre running for mayor; a half-dozen television cameras captured the moment for the evening news.

Still, some who have known her since she first started her political career believe that she has gotten a free ride in the media.

After Molina became the first Latina elected to the state Legislature, Ms. magazine named her a 1985 “Woman of the Year.” And when she became the first Latino and the first woman elected to the Board of Supervisors, newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post took note, calling her “a strong voice for California Latinos” and “a heroine to Hispanic women.” Underdogs make good copy--especially if they are winners.


But such glowing stories have caused critics to speak of the “Gloria Molina myth.” “As much as she likes to be portrayed as an outsider, she’s been an insider all of her life,” Pla says. He cites her political resume--an appointment to the White House staff by Jimmy Carter, regional director in San Francisco for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, top Southern California deputy for Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, deputy for then-Assemblyman Art Torres.

What’s more, if you’re going to work within the system, you should play by at least some of the rules, some critics say. Politics calls for a modicum of diplomacy. The real Gloria Molina, they say, will turn her back on you in public if she thinks you are her enemy. She will hold a grudge for years.

“Her downfall is that her feeling of hate is so deep,” says one Latina political activist who worked on Molina’s first campaign but has since been estranged. “She doesn’t know how to forgive. There’s something hard about her. Something that says: ‘In the end, I’m going to get you.’ ”

Molina realizes that her anger can get her into trouble. “I try and control it all the time. . . . You try not to flare up. You try and be calm. It does get in your way. People look at you and they’re frightened of you and they don’t know how to deal with you. You become an intimidating personality when you don’t mean to be.

“It’s not a good thing,” she says. “It never has been a very good thing. I inherited it from my pop. It never worked well for him either. . . . But it’s me. What can I say?”

OLDIES ROCK MELODIES GREET A VISITOR TO GLORIA MOLINA’S turquoise stucco home in Mt. Washington. “Hi, babe!” she calls to her husband, human resources consultant Ron Martinez, as he comes home from work and scoops up Valentina, their 5-year-old daughter. The house, high on a hillside overlooking much of the Eastside, has a large bougainvillea-edged deck and picture windows with a sweeping city view. It’s less than 10 miles from Pico Rivera, where she grew up, but as she sits on a bench under a huge tree in the back yard, talking about her childhood, it’s clear that her old neighborhood is not really so far away.


The eldest child of Leonardo Molina, a retired laborer and janitor with roots in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, and his wife, Concepcion, Gloria Molina was the family’s guide through an often hostile environment. The Molina family--Gloria has nine brothers and sisters--settled in the small suburb built between the banks of the Rio Hondo and the San Gabriel River, about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Her family spoke Spanish at home, and in the English-speaking world, Gloria often served as interpreter for her parents. She recalls leading them through an apartment search as landlord after landlord turned them away, unwilling to rent to a Latino family. At school, she was punished for speaking Spanish, even to the newly arrived immigrant-students who knew no other language. (Today, she often apologizes for her English-accented Spanish.)

Pico Rivera in the ‘60s was in the early stages of its transformation into a Latino community, and the incipient racial tensions played themselves out on the campus of El Rancho High School, where Molina was a shy, middle-of-the pack-student. “The white guys used to call us ‘Marias,’ ” Molina remembers. “We didn’t have names. We were Mexicans. They were the so-called ‘surfers.’ ”

Molina “was one of those people who just sat in class and listened,” says Will Walker, her 10th-grade civics teacher. “Gloria did well in school, although she was never an outstanding student. The Gloria Molina that you know today and the Gloria Molina I knew in the 10th grade are two different people. . . . It’s amazing.”

Her transformation, says a sister, Gracey Diaz, began with an accident. In 1967, Leonardo Molina, working on a road construction crew, was nearly buried alive when the sides of a deep trench collapsed. His injuries kept him in the hospital for several months, and out of work for nearly two years, his family living on his disability checks.

Unable to provide directly for his family, Leonardo Molina sank into a deep depression. As Diaz, one of Gloria’s younger sisters, remembers it, he would sit around the house, nursing his injuries and repeating: “ Para que sirvo? No sirvo para nada’ ’--”What am I good for? I’m not worth anything.” Molina, just a teen-ager, suddenly found herself taking charge of the family.

“She had to pay the bills and find out what we owed,” Diaz remembers. “She had to go in and talk to the doctors and translate for our mom. If the kids had problems at the school, she would call the school. She became the head of the household. She had to carry that load.” Diaz believes that those years armed Gloria with the determination and mettle that would later mark her political career. “That was the time she was learning to be more aggressive. Because if you stood by, nothing was going to happen.”


Of all the Molina children, Diaz says, Gloria is most like her father, a stern man who taught his children a strong sense of responsibility. “My father was real, real strict,” Diaz says. “My dad said, ‘In America, education is free till the 12th grade. You guys will graduate from high school or I will kill you.’ My dad had 10 kids, and 10 kids graduated.”

Diaz leaves no doubt that her father was a disciplinarian. The older kids in the Molina family, Gloria and Gracey included, got the worst of it. “I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end,” Diaz says. “My mother would also hit, but it was always like a little slap. But my dad, at that time, it was the belt. It was any little thing we got punished for.”

Molina went to work right after graduating from high school in 1966, putting aside dreams of becoming a fashion designer to take a job as a legal secretary. Her first experience in politics was as a volunteer in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Two years later, she was in East Los Angeles at the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, the seminal event in the grass-roots, radical Chicano movement. Molina says her political awakening came while a student at East Los Angeles College, when she joined the Mexican-American Student Assn. Working for the group, she tutored young people at the nearby Maravilla housing project.

“I go in there and I’m dealing with kids who are 14 years old and can’t read,” Molina remembers. “The girls have been raped once or twice. They popped pills. All of this stuff was so foreign to me.” It didn’t take long for her to conclude that “the whole system was mistreating them.”

In 1972, she volunteered to work in the state Assembly campaign of a young Eastside rabble-rouser named Richard Alatorre. Two years later, she worked for Art Torres’ first Assembly campaign, which led to a position on his staff. For the next decade she made a living in steadily advancing appointive political jobs, dropping out of college to pursue this new passion.

By 1982, she was ready to break into the state Legislature. Political consultant Pat Bond remembers examining dozens of photographs of Molina, searching for the image that would appear on thousands of flyers and posters. Finally, Bond settled on a portrait of Molina with a confident smile, her hair falling gracefully over her shoulder in a wide curl. “I spent weeks thinking about this picture,” Bond recalls. “I wanted to make sure she didn’t look too pretty or too glamorous. I wanted her to look strong, capable. I wanted a picture that said proud .”


When Molina was elected, the women who organized her campaign posed for another photograph, an election-night snapshot that has since become famous in Latino political circles: two dozen Latina women, gathered around Molina, in a euphoric celebration of a victory few had thought possible. Many are from Comision Femenil, a Latina political group whose members first encouraged Molina to run.

“We were walking on air,” remembers Berta Saavedra, a community relations coordinator. At the time, Saavedra was a recently divorced mother of three, working on her first political campaign. “There was this sense of identity (with her). She was a woman who was just like you, from your background.”

But Molina did not adapt well to the political culture of the Assembly, with its complex alliances and deal-making. Most of her proposed legislation died.

Bills she authored in Sacramento to end insurance company “redlining” practices and to sponsor dropout-prevention programs met slow, quiet deaths, victims, some said, of her unwillingness to negotiate with other legislators. “Every year I’d introduce this (insurance) bill, every year it got killed.” Molina says. “I knew it would. The point was, this had to be introduced. People are suffering in my community because of insurance.”

When Willie Brown proposed placing a new state prison in Molina’s Eastside district--in what some observers have said was a “pay back” for her opposing him on a number of issues--Molina transformed her Los Angeles field office into a headquarters for what became a large, grass-roots movement to oppose the prison. (They eventually won, six years after Molina left the Assembly).

That battle established her reputation as a fighter, and in future elections, it became her calling card. She rode the wave of favorable publicity to an easy City Council victory in 1987, beating Alatorre-backed Larry Gonzales.


In successive election campaigns, Molina has expanded her base of support beyond the Eastside to Westside women’s groups. While running for county supervisor in 1990 and 1991, she raised more than $500,000, much of it from women like Peg Yorkin, chairwoman of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, who praised Molina for her strength and feminism and gave her the Feminist of the Year award.

Molina developed a reputation as a different kind of Latino Democrat, more progressive than the moderate Alatorre. Nevertheless, as a city councilwoman she took a conservative stance on issues such as crime, cultivating a good relationship with former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. She also championed efforts to cut city red tape and to increase curbs on toxics and offshore oil drilling. She was the prime force behind plans to establish a low-income housing development called Central City West, which stalled after she left the council for the Board of Supervisors.

But critics suggest that Molina’s electoral victories and fighter personality mask a consistent lack of legislative success. While winning election after election, moving from one high-profile post to the next, she has rarely stayed in one place long enough to make a lasting mark, they say.

She so dislikes compromise and the give-and-take of politics, detractors believe, that she could spend her entire career moving from post to post, staying just long enough to shake things up a bit and make a few good headlines, further cultivating her feisty reputation.

“There’s such a dissatisfaction with government and politics . . . that Gloria’s star is very bright and is going to continue to be bright,” Pla says. “But, at some point, the train is going to stop and people are going to say,’ Gloria what have you done? What’s the agenda? What are the solutions? What’s the program? Are we better off as a result of you being in office?’ ”

ON A HOT SUMMER DAY, A DOZEN TELEVISION CAMERAS DESCEND ON the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors to record the historic resignation of Chief Administrative Officer Richard B. Dixon, one of the most powerful public administrators in the United States. Gloria Molina basks in victory; she has just won a six-month battle against a man who exercised extraordinary control over the county bureaucracy.


Molina first called for Dixon’s resignation last January, citing a variety of questionable acts, including the $6.1-million renovation of his own offices. For Molina, Dixon had become a symbol of bureaucratic intransigence and privilege. (He had also ordered an investigation into why no contract had been required for county employees’ sensitivity training conducted by her husband’s personnel consulting firm. In the end, a county official was reprimanded.) The other four supervisors supported Dixon, however, and he remained firmly entrenched in his position. But now, on July 21, after the Los Angeles County Grand Jury issued a report backing up many of Molina’s charges and Supervisor Deane Dana switched positions and called for his resignation, Dixon has finally announced that he will call it quits, ending his 34-year career in county government.

The usually staid Hall of Administration (a poor media second-cousin to nearby City Hall) is in the spotlight this day, thanks in part to Molina’s tenacity. A reporter for one TV station climbs up to the dais, corners Molina by her chair and asks: “So Gloria, is this another notch in your belt?” Molina smiles and diplomatically shakes her head no. But later she tells a reporter for a Spanish-language television station: “ Ya era tiempo “--it was about time Dixon resigned.

A few months later, Dixon tells an interviewer: “I didn’t adapt very well to Ms. Molina’s arrival and that’s my failure.”

When Molina joined the Board of Supervisors in early 1991, she tilted the balance of power on the board from conservatives to liberals, Molina joining Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who is now retired, and Edelman to form a majority on the five-member board. Board observers expected a flood of new legislation. But, as often as not, Molina has feuded with her liberal colleagues. Their attitude toward money, she says, mystified her. When she criticized a $392-a-month “professional development allowance” for board members, “I didn’t understand why they couldn’t appreciate my point of view. The issue being that we don’t have trauma centers, we don’t have this, we don’t have that--how can we be giving ourselves this (money)?” (Public outcry forced the board to cancel the allowance.)

The confrontations seemed to have especially alienated Edelman: More than once, he has publicly stated his disapproval of Molina’s style of governing. (He and other supervisors declined to be interviewed for this story.) “She may have missed an opportunity to forge a more consistent and effective alliance with the other two Democrats,” Dixon observes. “She might have done better getting her program with honey rather than vinegar.”

Molina, for her part, says she has been frustrated by all four of her colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike.


“I really came in with the idea that I wanted to be part of this team,” Molina says of the board. “I wanted them to include me. What occurred and what I personally took offense to was the sort of approach of ‘Be patient, you’ll learn your way around here. Watch us and how we do things and you’ll pick things up.’ I found that to be condescending and patronizing. And that’s about the worst thing anybody can do to me. I just want to fight back immediately.”

While discussing her battles in county government, Molina repeats the phrase “not taken seriously” or “dismissing me” about a dozen times during an hourlong interview. “I have to work hard at (being taken seriously) all the time, because, believe me, they’re going to dismiss me every chance they can,” she says of her opponents.

Molina has achieved mixed results in her attempts to reform county government through legislation: She placed top priority on ethics reform in county government but found no support for the measures from other supervisors. Her attempts to expose bureaucratic waste and inefficiency have been more effective. She has lambasted the county’s efforts to raise funds for hospitals--the fund-raising programs actually lost money--and she led an effort to restrict transportation allowances to those county employees who use their personal cars for county work. And she is widely credited with making the county’s budget deliberations a more open and democratic process.

LAST FALL, IT SEEMED that becoming the first Latina mayor of the nation’s second-largest city might be the next triumph in her meteoric political career.

But in November, after months of mulling over her decision, Molina announced that she would not enter the race. Though Mayor Tom Bradley’s resignation presented her with an opportunity that might not arise again, if she had won, she would have been forced to give up her seat on the Board of Supervisors, and by law, Gov. Pete Wilson would have appointed her successor. Leaving the board, she said, would have been a betrayal of the Latino community’s long struggle to win representation in county government.

“I have served (on the board) only 20 months,” she told reporters at a Hall of Administration press conference. She’s conscious of the years of effort and pressure that went into creating her district, boundaries drawn by the federal courts to ensure that Latino voters would be represented. “I cannot walk away from that responsibility,” she said.


A few days after the announcement, Molina relaxes on her patio in an oversized blouse and jogging pants. Having bowed out of the mayor’s race, she seems to have reached a plateau. And her position as resident outsider/swing vote on the Board of Supervisors may change with the election of Yvonne Brathwaite Burke to the board. All of this has rendered her reflective.

As Valentina repeatedly wanders out of the house, wanting to play with her, Molina talks of having more children, perhaps adopting one. And then she begins to speak about her hopes for the future. More than anything, she says, she’d like to play a role in mediating Southern California’s volatile ethnic conflicts. Though she has not taken such a role for the past two years--people would have seen her as posturing in mayor’s race if she’d done that, she says--that task looms larger than all the others facing her now. “I’m interested in the whole bissue of race relations,” she says, “though I don’t have a clue what to do. We need to start calming down all the tensions.”

Otherwise, she says, her function remains the same: to act as a watchdog for the people. She is well known for her mastery of the details of local government--regulations and policies--and even in envisioning solutions for the severe financial problems facing the county, she keeps her focus narrow. She speaks not of grand schemes for creating jobs and attracting industry but of keeping government honest, making the system work. “We need to start holding them accountable,” she says. “I’m going to work on the budget, the Health Department. We’ve got a long way to go to make it accessible to people.”

For the time being, says Molina, that job will satisfy her. But she mentions the latest rumor aimed at propelling her toward the next rung on the ladder: Perhaps, people have told her, she should run for governor someday. She turns the idea over in her mind. “I always used to say, ‘I don’t think I’ll sell in Turlock.’ But that might be wrong.” Supporters, she says, had called her from the San Fernando Valley, where she had never thought she’d find a constituency, to urge her to run for mayor. Governor? “I might be able to,” she says, hopeful for an instant. “I don’t know if I can.”

A moment later, though, she discounts the idea of statewide office, as well as persistent speculation that she will take a post in the Clinton Administration. After all, she’s just committed herself to her current job--at least until 1994. Yet, unlike the shy schoolgirl she left behind in Pico Rivera, Gloria Molina is willing at least to envision those possibilities. And the probability that, like it or not, whatever comes next will leave enemies in her wake.

The change she champions is not without personal cost. “It usually doesn’t sit well for a politician to have this sort of take-no-prisoners attitude that I have sometimes,” she says. “I didn’t wake up like this; I became this way because of politics.”