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Supervisor Gloria Molina says she will seek Huizar’s council seat

Soon to be termed-out Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina announced plans to challenge Councilman Jose Huizar.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said Friday that she plans to challenge City Councilman Jose Huizar in next year’s election, dramatically rearranging a contest that looked like an easy one for the incumbent.

With less than three months before she is termed-out after serving more than two decades as a supervisor, Molina said she isn’t ready to end her work as a public servant. The 66-year-old said she was concerned about the level of city services being provided in parts of Huizar’s district, which stretches from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock. She also voiced alarm over the lack of women politicians at City Hall.

“I am concerned that there is only one woman on the [15-member] City Council,” said Molina, who had served on the council from 1987 to 1991. “When I left, that wasn’t the case at all.”

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Molina, who spent nearly three decades living in Mt. Washington, said she moved into Huizar’s district -- a requirement for candidates seeking the seat -- a few weeks ago. She has separated from her husband, business consultant Ron Martinez, and purchased a three-bedroom home in El Sereno. She also has hired political consultant Fred Register for her campaign.

Huizar, a councilman for the last nine years, is expected to be a formidable candidate. Last month, he reported that he has raised more than $648,000 for his campaign and has drawn support from business and union leaders. Unlike some incumbents at City Hall, he is used to facing reelection challenges.

In 2007, he defeated one of his former aides, Alvin Parra. Four years later, he beat back a challenge from businessman Rudy Martinez, a former friend of Huizar’s turned fierce critic.

Molina’s candidacy “automatically makes the race more competitive, there’s no question about that,” said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles. “Jose is very close to [Council President Herb] Wesson, so it will be a battle royal if it plays out. My goodness, this kind of floors me.”

Molina has been a major presence on the Eastside over the last 23 years, representing a district that stretches from East L.A. to Claremont. During a lunchtime interview in El Sereno, Molina said she was concerned about the financial health of the city. She also argued that parts of Huizar’s district, particularly Boyle Heights, have not received enough attention from city officials.

That difference can be seen, she said, when driving from the East L.A. section of her district into the Boyle Heights section of Huizar’s.

“There’s a lot that needs to change,” she said.

Huizar spokesman Rick Coca responded with a statement from the councilman touting his work in the district, which includes El Sereno, part of Highland Park and most of downtown.

“From revitalizing Broadway and helping create thousands of jobs downtown, to building new parks, to championing groundbreaking pedestrian-, bike- and business-friendly policies that are the model for the entire city, the service to Council District 14 constituents has never been higher and I look forward to continuing to serve as their councilmember for the next four years,” Huizar said.

Three other people also disclosed plans to run for Huizar’s seat: social worker Nadine Diaz, who lives in Boyle Heights, Alex San Martin, an advocate for the disabled who lives downtown, and Mario Chavez, a community organizer who lives in Boyle Heights. So far, none of them have raised significant amounts for a campaign, according to city records.

Molina was elected to the state Assembly, joining the Legislature in 1982. Five years later, she became a member of the City Council and served one term. She has spent the last 23 years on the Board of Supervisors.

In recent months, Huizar has been fending off a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Francine Godoy, a former aide. Godoy said Huizar punished her for refusing to provide sexual favors. Huizar said Godoy’s claims are false. Trial is set for November.

Molina said any payment by the city to settle that case could become an issue. She would not address the matter further. “I’m not running on his scandal stuff, which would be easier. That’s his issue and he’s gonna have to deal with it,” she said.

Follow @DavidZahniser for more news from L.A. City Hall


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