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L.A. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress, will retire

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks into a microphone on Capitol Hill
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in 2018.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress, will not seek reelection in her soon-to-be-redrawn Los Angeles district, she announced Monday.

“After thirty years in the House of Representatives, the time has come for me to spend more time with my family,” Roybal-Allard, 80, wrote in a news release.

In Congress, the Democrat from Downey was known for her work on immigration issues, and she was one of the original co-authors of legislation to give legal status to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

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Her announcement comes as her 40th Congressional District, which had the highest Latino population of any district in the country according to the 2010 census, looks to be virtually eliminated as the state remakes its congressional map amid population changes.

The state will lose one seat, leaving it with a total of 52.

The 40th District includes much of South Los Angeles, the Eastside and southeast L.A. County. Under the proposed changes, which a citizens redistricting commission approved unanimously Monday night, it would be drawn into the current district of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who announced his retirement last week. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has announced plans to run and is considered a strong favorite for that seat.

“I am aware of the current draft map and I have concerns about the protections of Voting Rights [Act] districts and in particular the diluting of the vote in our Latino communities,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement to The Times when draft redistricting maps were released last month.

Veteran Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard would lose her district under draft political maps.

Several other lawmakers have also announced their intentions to not seek reelection in the last few weeks amid the redistricting effort, including Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) and Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who is running for mayor of L.A.

Upon Roybal-Allard’s announcement, other Latina legislators from California spoke of her importance as a role model for generations.

“As a Latina Legislator, I know I stand on the shoulders of @RepRoybalAllard,” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). “She was the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress and is a hero to so many of us.”

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) tweeted that she was “truly heartbroken” and called Roybal-Allard an inspiration.

Roybal-Allard was first elected to her seat representing Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Downey, Huntington Park, Maywood, Paramount, Vernon and a section of Bellflower in 1993, shortly after her father, former Rep. Edward Roybal, retired from Congress, also after three decades.

In 2016, when a red oak was planted on the Capitol grounds in Roybal’s memory, Roybal-Allard told The Times her late father was often on her mind at work.

“I think about him all the time, all the time,” she said. He “truly believed the House of Representatives was the people’s house, and that’s where you could have the most impact on the lives of people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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