This Family Feud Wastes Valuable Political Passion

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I’m awfully glad the election is tomorrow because I’m fed up with L.A.’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

They gossip and they hurl mud at each other. They believe that they alone have the right stuff when it comes to politics, especially as it affects L.A.’s Latinos.

I’m referring to the feud between County Supervisor Gloria Molina and her loyalists, and the three politicos they love to hate--state Sen. Art Torres, Assemblyman Richard Polanco and L.A. City Councilman Richard Alatorre--and their followers. In the days leading to the primary election, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing as both sides have traded insults. The callers have insisted on anonymity before spilling their guts on the latest “outrage” committed by the other side.


It got so bad that by Friday, I happily turned off my phone to go see the dentist, who wants me to have a root canal.


The latest episode in this soap opera flared after Molina appeared Wednesday at a Downtown news conference to endorse Westside Assemblyman Burt Margolin, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for insurance commissioner.

In doing so, she ignored Torres, who also is running for the post. If Torres is successful--and a recent Times Poll showed he had a comfortable lead over Margolin--he will become the first Latino to hold statewide office in California in more than 100 years.

Torres, who supported Molina when she first ran for the Assembly in 1982 but later had a falling-out with her, is the man she defeated in a bitter election in 1991 to win her current job.

Molina knew she would be asked about Torres and had a reply ready.

“When you’re talking about the insurance commissioner, you really need a solid advocate . . . who is going to stand up to the special interests,” she told reporters. “And very frankly, Art and I had our disagreements (on Proposition 103, which created the elective position of insurance commissioner). I was a strong supporter and I sent out mail on the proposition and Art was on the other side.

“We would like to see Latinos who are going to be in statewide office. But in this particular instance, what really outweighed it is the importance of this issue, particularly for my community.”


I wasn’t surprised by her slam against Torres and neither were the callers.

“Gloria Molina won’t allow herself to support a Latino for statewide official,” a Torres supporter claimed. “She should be ashamed of herself.”

The Molinistas had their spin.

“Gloria beat Torres, and his people are still crying about it,” one Latina explained. “If Art wins the primary, Gloria will support the Democratic ticket. She is a Democrat. Right now, she thinks Margolin is better.”

The focus of the incoming calls soon shifted from the state commissioner’s race to others where Molina and her opponents, particularly Polanco, have staked their political capital. One such contest is in the 45th Assembly District, where ethnicity is a factor.

“Molina is for the empowerment of the Latino community,” one Molinista said, “and that is among the reasons she is supporting Antonio Villaraigosa. Polanco, by supporting a non-Latino (Bill Mabie), isn’t.”

One Torres/Polanco political insider retorted: “In an ideal situation, Polanco ought to find a Latino candidate to support. But when he went looking, every Latino he approached turned him down. If you’re going to be outraged at Polanco, then you have to be outraged at Molina for not supporting a qualified Latino candidate for statewide office.”

By the 40th call, things got nasty. The callers brought up everything from Torres’ two drunk-driving arrests to Molina’s gain in weight to Villaraigosa’s brush with the law about 17 years ago.


“Molina is dishonest,” one side said.

“Polanco is a vendido (sellout),” the other said.

By No. 52, I started hanging up on them.

“Why are you defending Torres and Polanco?” a Molina supporter persisted.

“You really love Gloria, don’t you?” a Torres sympathizer concluded.


Actually, I admire Molina’s guts and determination to open up the bureaucracy for the underprivileged. And I think Torres is an eloquent champion for Latinos who has shown grace in overcoming personal problems.

But the passion and energy I heard in those calls were wasted. They should have been channeled into combining their might to fight the rising tide of immigrant bashing, to persuade President Clinton to address Latino concerns about unemployment and education, and to fulfill the goals these leaders have for their communities.

Politics may be politics, but these folks need to grow up.