A year ago, City Councilman Jose Huizar was looking ahead to what seemed to be an easy campaign for re-election to his 14th Council District seat on the Los Angeles City Council.
That changed, however, when then-county Supervisor Gloria Molina decided she wasn’t ready to retire from politics and wanted to return to the City Council where she served from 1987 to 1991, prior to being elected to the Board of Supervisors.
Now Huizar finds himself in a battle against a politician who not only has never lost an election, but one whose career has been marked by winning elections many observers thought she had no chance to win.
Two other candidates are on the March 3 ballot in District 14, Nadine Diaz, a Boyle Heights native who calls herself a health and community advocate; and Mario Chavez, another Boyle Heights native who is director of community relations for St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles.
But it is Huizar and Molina who are getting most of the attention.
Huizar is seeking his third and last term on the council.
He won a special election in November 2005 to replace Antonio Villaraigosa after Villaraigosa was elected mayor and then was easily re-elected in 2007 and 2011. Prior to being elected to the council, Huizar represented much of the same area on the Los Angeles Unified School District school board.
Huizar is leading Molina in campaign fundraising and key endorsements, but he also has a scandal hanging over his head.
In 2013, he was sued for sexual harassment by a former staff member, Francine Godoy. Huizar admitted having a consensual sexual relationship with Godoy. After the city spent $200,000 in legal bills defending Huizar, the lawsuit was dropped.
Huizar reportedly paid Godoy an undisclosed amount to drop the suit.
Prior to that, Huizar was involved in a traffic accident while driving a city vehicle. The city’s insurance paid out a reported $185,000 to the person who Huizar hit, to cover his medical expenses.
Molina has no clouds over her candidacy.
She started out politically working on the staff of then-Assemblyman Art Torres, who represented the Eastside in the mid-1970s. She also worked in the White House during the Jimmy Carter administration.
In 1982, she bucked the then all-male Eastside political establishment, taking on Richard Polanco for an Eastside Assembly seat. She won, becoming the first Latina to serve in the state Legislature.
In 1987, she ran for the L.A. City Council, becoming the first Latina to serve on the council. Four years later, she became the first Latina to win a seat on the county Board of Supervisor, defeating her former boss Torres for the seat that was created after a lawsuit forced the county to redraw supervisorial district boundaries to make it easier for a Latino top be elected.
She is still a revered figure on the Eastside for leading a battle to prevent the state from building a prison in East Los Angeles in the 1980s.
If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in the March 3 election, the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff May 19.