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[Session 4, July 12, 1990]


[Begin Tape 4, Side A]
Vasquez

Councilwoman Molina, the last time we talked, we were just beginning to get into your decision to run for the assembly seat held by Art Torres when he challenged Alex Garcia. You've been quoted as saying that was probably one of the biggest heartbreaks that you had ever had. <

4.  Mills, Kay. Gloria Molina. Ms. (January 1985): 80, 114 . Molina was featured on the cover of Ms. magazine's Woman of the Year issue.

The lack of support that you got from Art Torres and Richard Alatorre: two people that you had been very impressed with, had worked for, and considered to be important political allies. Tell me about that.


Molina

[Laughter] And who I had loyally supported. It's interesting. My decision to run for that assembly seat was not done in a vacuum or by myself or something about, "It's time." It


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didn't work that way at all. It stems from a group of us who wanted to see a Chicana get elected.


Vasquez

This is the group that we were talking about?


Molina

Right, that we were talking about.


Vasquez

Electing someone to Congress.


Molina

That's right. That really was our focus. And we saw that kind of taken away from us. We were—as a group—disappointed, but said, "Hey, that's politics," kind of thing and continued to move on. I mean, we had always been respectful for the most part of the process that was laid out there in Chicano politics. We didn't say we liked it 100 percent for the most part. We knew that it was doing good things. The bigger good.


Vasquez

What process was this?


Molina

The process of the leadership that was there, the people who were there. We didn't always agree with Art Torres. We didn't always agree with Richard Alatorre. We didn't always agree with a lot of their decisions. But we also knew that they needed our support in order to keep going and doing the bigger good, as we said. So even in the congressional seats, you know, when they


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made those decisions, there wasn't much of an argument that could be made. I mean, it's not like we had somebody there. We had this Chicana who. . . . We're all set to go, and she got aced out. I mean, it didn't happen that way. We were . . .


Vasquez

[Despite the] organization that you had.


Molina

Right. Because all we were doing was basically saying, "If there's a shot, let's really go out there and look for someone and put her in the hopper." Little did we know that as quickly as they drew the lines and kind of let it be known, [there] also came the candidate. We felt a little shortchanged from that process.


Vasquez

Were you out of the loop?


Molina

Yes, we were out of the loop in that regard.


Vasquez

How did the loop work, then?


Molina

Well, the loop worked as they were elected officials; we were not. We were a support group and all of [that]. We were not elected officials. They had decided.


Vasquez

Without consulting supporters?


Molina

We were nobody to be consulted. In a sense, when we say, "We were nobody to be consulted. . . ."


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In the way things were set up at that time, we were a group of Chicanas who played this supportive role. We were leadership with Chicana organizations and Chicanas. But at the same time, I guess, we weren't as assertive as we needed to be, so that we needed to be consulted, that things needed to go through us for [them] to be okay. We hadn't had that kind of presence. They didn't look at us in that fashion. But we didn't understand that yet. I'll tell you, we didn't understand that yet. We were still growing and we were still trying to understand how everything worked. But we did know that one of the things that we wanted to do was to make things happen for Chicanas. And, like I said, we didn't buy into—as a group of Chicanas and feminists—the majority feminist philosophy and style. We didn't buy into the Chicano political guise and their style or the movement's style. We were always kind of developing our own way and our own style.


Vasquez

What were the differences?


Molina

The differences between . . ?


Vasquez

In style or in content as you saw it.



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Molina

Well, with other feminists or white feminists, we were not going to go in there and say to the old boys in our community, "Hey, that's it, you know. We're part of the environment or the picture here, and you need to consult us. And if you don't. . . ." We weren't as confrontational with them. We weren't as accusatory as. . . . "You guys are part of the problem." We were always willing to say, "The problem is racism. Sexism as well. But the problem is racism, and we've got to come out of all of those things." So we weren't willing to confront them and to blame them as quickly as most Anglo feminists were doing with men in general.

With the Chicano movement, we weren't as willing to dismiss our priorities as women. Which many times they [Chicano men] felt we needed to dismiss and say, "Wait a minute. The bigger issue is racism. You know, the sexism thing is not as important." We weren't willing to do that. So, like I said, we were between the two. And we were making our own way. I think we were very unique. We were [one of] the very first groups, and I think probably still one of


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the few feminist groups around. Because there are not many. There were many other Latina or Chicana organizations, but they weren't feminist groups and they weren't willing to sit there and say, "Wait a minute. We're operating in the best interest of the Chicana woman and her family, and these are the goals." We weren't willing to submit ourselves under to another umbrella, but say that we were unique. We needed to come up with our own ideology, philosophy, and our own leadership and all of those kinds of things.

One of our big goals was learning to become leaders. Not to become followers to the white women's movement, and not to become followers to the Chicano movement. But to become leaders for ourselves, for other women. That was very important to us.


Vasquez

Summarize, if you will, what your feminist philosophy was at the time as a Chicana feminist.


Molina

As a Chicana feminist, we felt very, very firmly that women should have every single opportunity available to them—no different than the Chicano would say—and that it had been denied historically and traditionally. And that we as


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Chicanas and feminist women had to continue to fight for that. We had to play leadership roles to make sure that the Chicana and her family was going to have every single opportunity available to her. That no matter what decision she made—whether she was going to be a blue-collar laborer or whether she wanted to be an engineer—that Chicanas were going to have that kind of opportunity. So it involved a whole lot of things. But again, that was our philosophy. It was a feminist one. That we should be treated as equals and looked upon as equals. Nothing that should say we were not equals. That was very feminist of us.

Yet at the same time, our style was different. It wasn't coming in and making those demands. We had resolved to ourselves that we just had to work a heck of a lot harder to be equal. And somehow that was, I think, the Chicana part of us. We were willing to accept that yoke around us and to say, "We had to work a lot harder."


Vasquez

The burden of proof was on you. Was that it?


Molina

Yes.



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Vasquez

And you were willing to carry that?


Molina

I would say that most of us as Chicanas did that.


Vasquez

Did that cause problems for you with the white feminist movement?


Molina

Yes.


Vasquez

How so?


Molina

Well, for example, we would go to a white feminist conference, and one of the very first things was they would use the "macho" term a lot. We said, "Hey, wait a minute. You know, we don't necessarily think that's a negative term." I mean, being macho in our community means being a man who lives up to his responsibility and his duty. I mean, you're not necessarily a pig. [Laughter] "We're not going to allow you to slander our men." And so we used to challenge them for saying things like "macho men."


Vasquez

Did you ever write anything on that score?


Molina

No.


Vasquez

As a group?


Molina

As a group?


Vasquez

Because that became a very important dichotomy, if you will, between Chicana and white


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feminists. That never got clarified enough. And it was used effectively in some cases, wasn't it, by Chicanos that were other than enlightened on the score, to sort of paint everyone with the same brush?


Molina

Yes. That was not us. I don't know if any of us did any writing on that or. . . . Francisca Flores may have. In her newsletters, she might have pointed those things out. But we were very proud of that difference. And we were very proud of saying so. I mean, we weren't shy at those meetings either. I know that even when someone would say something very boldly and very strongly about how we had to confront something. . . . We did not look at it necessarily that way, because again these were women who were operating under the impression that the only barrier out there was because of sexism. We had to tell them every so often, "That's crap if you're a Chicana or a black woman, you know."

At the beginning, that wasn't the case. They were very adamant. Just like the Chicano movement about, "We're feminists first, and that's it." In fact, there was always a


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challenge about, "Are you a feminist first, or are you a Chicana first?" And I was saying, "I'm a Chicana first all the time." And that in itself was different. That doesn't mean I was not a feminist. It didn't mean I'm not part of the Chicano movement. So it was always this identity kind of situation. But I must say that within Comisión and within this group of women, we were very proud of what we did. And we held firmly our ground with the white feminists and with the Chicanos.


Vasquez

But did you continue to consider yourself a part of the feminist movement?


Molina

Yes, very much so. Even though we disagreed with them in certain things—we disagreed with styles and things of that sort, and we disagreed with them on some of the basics—we firmly agreed that there was sexism going on everywhere. And it needed to be challenged and confronted. We needed to develop strength and groups of people [with the] leadership to continue to battle that. Sexism was indeed a major problem, and it was a hindrance for us as Latinas. So we felt very strongly. . . . We still connected ourselves


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with [the feminist movement]. We didn't disown [it]. We never said, "No, I'm never going to be a part of that." We participated. But we wanted to participate as Chicanas. As Chicana feminists. We would go to groups, and we would proudly introduce ourselves as Chicana feminists. Because we wanted them to know and respect us for the kinds of things that we were doing. And we didn't want to be sucked up by them and be nonexistent. We wanted them to know that we existed and that we were a very, very unique kind of a group.


Vasquez

What segments of the community did you find the most receptive and the least receptive to your coming into [community] issues as Chicana feminists and activists?


Molina

Well, the groups that were involved in social service programs welcomed us tremendously. They really did. And [it was] certainly a natural type of thing. Most of us were social workers, kind of.


Vasquez

Many of those social programs had women on their staffs, predominantly women.


Molina

That's right. So we were very welcome. We were


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like part of that scene. Most of our membership came from those kinds of groups. The political group and the political Latino leadership? Hah. It was as if it was a whim. They initially looked at it as, "Oh, it's a whim. Wait till they get married and have children. Se les va quitar." [They will get over it.] [Laughter] There was that group that treated it like that. "It's insignificant, because it's women."

Then there were others that were threatened by it. I don't know exactly why. But I think they had this fear that. . . . Well, it manifested itself in different kinds of actions. Like some man said, "I don't want my wife to do that." Like something was going to be taken away from him if his wife was going to get educated or involved in this, and that she would be taken away from him. Again, I think there were those in the movement that probably felt—as has been said before—that we were dividing. We were dividing the movement. Consequently, it was going to curtail or somehow hold us back.


Vasquez

Were you made to feel guilty for your feminism by those folks?



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Molina

No. I never . . .


Vasquez

Was there attempts to make you to feel guilty for your beliefs by those folks?


Molina

Oh, I think there were always those kinds of attempts. But, you know, they didn't land anywhere, at least for us who were very serious. I remember at one point in time something that made me so angry. And it hurt me a lot, because it was said so that I could hear it. I know it was said so I could hear it. The remarks by men about women anytime they establish any kind of leadership. Their feeling is always that, "These women don't have anything better to do." And I think when I heard this discussion between two Chicanos, it was this business, again, very sexual. I mean that, you know, we were just looking for men and looking for sexual opportunities with some so-called "great Chicano leaders" that we had at the time. That was a very, very painful experience for me. It hurt me because I didn't want people to perceive me as that. I was hurt by that. It was a very painful situation. I was single. I mean, we were young women who certainly were interested in men,


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right? But to be pegged in this fashion. That somehow that was our only interest. It was a real painful thing for me.


Vasquez

Or to minimize it to that?


Molina

Yes. I made it a point after that that I was just not going to have anything to do with any of these men ever on a social level. I was going to keep my distance from them, because this was so very important. But I remember being very hurt by that. At one point in time, I thought of stepping back, because I didn't want them to look at me that way. For my own personal dignity, I just couldn't. . . . The thought of continuing on and being looked upon that way was, again, something real personal for me that I couldn't handle. But then afterwards I thought about it. I said, "That's nonsense. That's part of what men do to intimidate you." And stepped right back into it. But I did resolve myself. . . . "These guys. [Laughter] They're so egocentric [to think] that all we are [doing] is chasing them around." Anyway, so there were those instances.


Vasquez

Now how did you move from that feminist effort into your decision to run for the assembly and


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your disappointment in not being supported by the established Chicano leadership?


Molina

All right. Very frankly in mid-1981, I didn't work for Art Torres. I worked for Willie Brown. I had heard rumblings that Art was now considering running against Alex García. Of course, our little group got together and started discussing that. And right away, they said, "We've got to find somebody to run." I mean, here's a real opportunity and the whole thing. Of course, within my group everybody quickly pointed to me and said, "Gloria, it's like your backyard. You should run for the seat." I said, "No, no, no." I remember being very hesitant initially.


Vasquez

Why?


Molina

[Laughter] I don't know exactly why. Because I remember saying, "Wait a minute." I had seen myself in a different role. I had pictured myself as being a campaign manager.


Vasquez

The behind-the-scenes person.


Molina

Right.


Vasquez

What you had been doing already, right?


Molina

Right. That's where I had been most comfortable


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and what I really enjoyed doing at the time. So for me now to be the candidate was. . . . First of all, I didn't have enough confidence in myself. Which has been a constant all the way through in everything else that I've done. "I can't do it. I can't win. I can't do those things." All of that stuff went on.


Vasquez

Where do you think that comes from? I was rereading the first three sessions that we've done, and you mentioned that a number of times. Can you identify the source of that?


Molina

I don't know. But I sure did grow up with it. I mean, I'm not sure if I'm totally rid of it, right?


Vasquez

Uh-huh.


Molina

Then I would go into these things, and I would find, "Gee, I can do this. Gee, I can handle this." But why did I feel so inadequate and insecure? I don't know.


Vasquez

You felt the same way going into the White House?


Molina

Yes. That's right. Or getting involved in the Carter-Mondale campaign. "Oh, gee, I don't know if I can do that." The same kind of thing that I set up for myself every single time. That


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doubt. That self-doubt. Why? I don't know. It must have been ingrained in me somewhere along the line. But, you know, it's something that I find most Chicanas say that to themselves.


Vasquez

It's a function of being a Chicana, do you think?


Molina

Well . . .


Vasquez

Is it cultural? Is it gender?


Molina

I think it's something that maybe is cultural and reflects what happened to us. And I think about it. I'm sure that my mom did not intentionally or anything like that, but probably it comes from that. I remember my mother reminding me at thirteen that I was going to get married and have kids, and I was going to be like her. I mean, "So don't get your hopes up," kind of a thing. It wasn't meant to be negative or anything, but I just remember those kinds of things.


Vasquez

Do you sense in generations subsequent to yours of young Chicanas that there's still that attitude?


Molina

Not necessarily. What I've seen in young Chicanas is very, very different. And it's great. Young Chicanas now who have no problem when they get accepted to Stanford


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[University]. I mean, they're not sitting there and going, "Oh, gee, can I do it? I don't know if I should. . . ." [Laughter] "Can I afford to go? How am I going to . . ?" A whole different set of, you know, elements that are evaluated instead of "Gee."


Vasquez

Have you thought about it enough to have an opinion of what changed? What happened in a very short period of time?


Molina

It's just like these gates just burst open—of opportunity. I mean, think about it. I mean, what motivates us? Or how do we see ourselves? If we don't see women in some of these roles, women in some of these situations, then how do we see ourselves there? We don't see Chicanas in those kinds of roles and the role modeling that we talked about in Comisión years and years ago. We used to say, "Well, is it important?" Heck, it is very, very important. If all of my role models—and certainly growing up all of my models, except for Anglos, were all of my mother's friends, all of my tías—all were wives.


Vasquez

Homemakers?


Molina

They stayed home and took care of their kids.


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Period. I mean, in my family, we didn't know anyone who was a librarian, or a teacher, or anything else as far as the women were concerned.


Vasquez

Is this why people like Francisca Flores had such an impact on you when you met her?


Molina

Oh, I think so. Oh, Francisca and people like her, they were just unbelievably amazing. Yes, they were very, very important people. They were brand new people. It was like a whole new world that I entered when I got to meet women like them.


Vasquez

All right. Now . . . [Interruption]


Molina

Now back to this. [Laughter]


Vasquez

You were being talked into being the candidate. Tell me more about that.


Molina

Well, again, the self-doubt. Then, of course, "Well, wait a minute. Can we do it?" and dah-dah-dah. And we finally decided, "Well, let's go and check it out." I guess we decided not to go and meet with Art. Or at least I didn't meet with Art right away, because he had his own thing to do. I mean, he was going to challenge Alex García and everything else.


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I met with a very good friend of mine at the time, Lou Moret. He was Richard Alatorre's administrative assistant. Lou had been very, very helpful to me and had taught me a lot of the ins and outs of being a. . . . He assisted me in becoming Art Torres's AA and had been really been very helpful. I had worked with him for years. So I trusted him. I had an awful lot of confidence in him and felt that he was somebody I could talk to.

So I went ahead and had a meeting with him. It started out that, "I'm thinking of running for the seat. What do you think?" And it was the way he responded that was the most disappointing, and I'll never forget that. All that self-doubt? He threw it all back at me. "You can't run. You can't win. What are you talking about? You can't raise money. You can't get endorsements." I mean, all the "You can'ts" that I said to myself, he just laid it all out there for me. And I said, "But, of course, I could try. I think I can raise. . . . I think I can do it." All this doubt. It was a very, very hard meeting, but I had already settled these


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things for myself. And then he had turned around and just threw it all back at me and said, "You can't." So I sort of tried to make a case for myself. But I know it wasn't very forceful, because I know it also reinforced everything that I already said to myself.

So, you know, I was sort of discouraged by the meeting and walked away from the meeting confused about it. So I went back to my little group and told them that he really felt I couldn't do this, couldn't do that. And we started thinking about it to ourselves. But within hours or within days of that conversation, I had heard who they were thinking of as a candidate and . . .


Vasquez

Which was?


Molina

Which was Richard Polanco.


Vasquez

Did you know Richard Polanco?


Molina

Oh, very well. [Laughter]


Vasquez

From?


Molina

From when I used to work in Casa Maravilla as a volunteer. When I was a secretary, I used to work in the evening. In fact, he was originally one of the gang guys that used to hang around.


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He belonged to the Arizona [Street gang] group. So I knew him even before. Then he became more of a gang counselor and got moved up through that. So I really did know him very well, and I had worked with him. When he was [Los Angeles County Supervisor Edward D.] Ed Edelman's AA, I was Art Torres's AA. So we had a working relationship.

Then I called up Lou Moret, and I said, "I just heard that Richard Polanco's going to run for this seat." So he said, "Yeah, yeah." I said, "Well, you can't support somebody like that." And, basically, he was telling me that he was. I think that was the biggest blow that I had. Because what I had seen as a good friend, whom I thought I could go to in confidence and talk to about these things, all of a sudden was telling me that, "Hey, it's already been decided, and you're not it." He was just feeding into exactly what was going on. That's when I started finding out that they had already decided who was going to run for this seat. Richard Alatorre, everybody around that group started being very noncommital. "Oh, yeah. Give me a call. I'll


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meet with you. Yeah, yeah, yeah." That kind of a thing. You would call, and they'd schedule it for, like, four months in the future. And here's a good friend I had worked with, whom I had supported. And all of a sudden, they were giving me the runaround. "What's going on?" I talked to Art, and he said that it looked like that was going to be the situation.


Vasquez

What were the problems you had with Polanco's candidacy?


Molina

I had worked with Polanco. First of all, he's not a very hard worker. I had always found that Richard Polanco was. . . . He's always been promoted by others and has had great granddaddies or grandfathers in the process. There are a lot of people who are very lucky in that regard. He's one of those people that's very lucky. But he personally is not a hard worker on issues or anything. He has never done anything on his own. He's always attached himself—in a leadership role—to other things that are going on. And I knew that about him all the time. I mean, that's just his style. I also used to find him. . . . Of course, I didn't know him as a


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totally honest person. I knew him as somebody who would say the right things to lots of people in order to get into their little group and so on. So I didn't know him to be as honest and have as much integrity. I had problems with him. Not that we didn't work together.

Here I was, and here was Richard Polanco. So Lou Moret had shot me down, because all of these things I couldn't do. Then they put me up and said, "Polanco was it. . . ." I looked at that and said, "Hey, wait a minute. I mean, with all due respect, we might be equal in footing, but I'm not less qualified than this individual to be a candidate." And that's what I couldn't handle.


Vasquez

The only difference being that you were a woman?


Molina

Well, that's what I wanted to find out. What is this? And that's when we got the runaround and everything else. I could only conclude that. I had to conclude that. It was the men deciding, and only men in that group, who made that decision and who wouldn't tell you why. Anyway, we went back and forth.

Finally, the more they said they were going


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to exclude me, the more I was persistent and insistent. That was like the silent pleito that went on for about six months. And it was an important time, because that was for me at one point. . . . I mean, I had all the self-doubt. I was ready to step back, right? I just needed people to tell me, "Gloria, you really can't win." And I wasn't stupid, you know. I wasn't going to go and just do it, because I had to run. So I would have accepted at one point in time what Lou had to say, because it's sort of how I felt about it. You know, "I really can't do these things." I didn't feel like I was a public speaker. I didn't feel like I could go up to Sacramento and really talk eye-to-eye to every member of the legislature and so on. So I had a lot of self-doubt. But when they said the candidate was Polanco, that's when I said, "Hey, wait a minute here. This is a different situation." And we had a lot of meetings during that time. A lot of game-playing went on. The so-called "Golden Palominos" went off and met and . . .


Vasquez

Who were the Golden Palominos?



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Molina

Let's see. The Golden Palominos included, of course, Richard Alatorre, Lou Moret, at that time David Lizarraga. I think George Pla was involved. Congressman Roybal was at that meeting. Estebán Torres was at that meeting. Marty Martínez supposedly was at that meeting. I don't know if Polanco was there or not. I don't know. But there were a lot of the elected leadership of that time and kind of the fund-raising base of most of those guys.


Vasquez

What did Golden Palomino refer to?


Molina

Well, at that time, there was a reporter with the [Los Angeles] Herald [Examiner] by the name of Tony . . .


Vasquez

Castro.


Molina

Castro. And Tony had his own column. So he had his own opinions, as he wrote about them an awful lot. At that time, he wrote about that. He wrote about that meeting, and he wrote about it being the Golden Palominos. You know, the men getting together and doing their things. Gosh, I don't even remember the columns anymore, but that's how that phrase came about. They met, and they did that. I mean, we said that it was


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inappropriate, even though it was sort of behind the scenes and Tony was keeping up with what was going on. We were now challenging their right to hold a meeting of this type. To exclude us from the process and to make a decision.


Vasquez

They were all elected officials and you weren't.


Molina

That's right.


Vasquez

What was the basis for you being included? What was the argument that you would use?


Molina

Well, that's just it. I wasn't saying, "I need to be part of the decision-makers," but just, "I've decided to run. I've decided to be a candidate, and I deserve to be considered."


Vasquez

All right.


Molina

That's all I was asking for. If I was going to be dismissed as a candidate, I needed them to tell me that. That's when they started fudging an awful lot. But it got very heavy duty. I think a lot of it was that they looked at me and said. . . . Again, like they did in 1974: "Just a whim. She'll get over it" kind of thing, right? That's exactly what I think they thought. So when I talk about that period—six months of the silent pleito—it was like on their


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part, you know, "Se la va olvidar." [She will forget about it.] "Don't worry about it. She'll back off."

But we became very, very persistent. We did everything. We kept meeting and we kept trying to figure it out. We sat down and we took everything they said about me negatively. We wrote it down. "Can I get endorsements?" I took out my list. "This is why not." Tum-tum-tum-tum. "This is why I think I can get these endorsements." We laid it all out. And they were pretty good endorsements. Because I had worked that district. I knew those people. I knew a lot of the other people that I helped. Good endorsements. We laid it out, "Can I raise money?" And we laid out a plan where I thought I could get money. It wasn't a whole lot, but it was pretty good.


Vasquez

What kind of endorsements are you talking about?


Molina

The other local elected officials: the local mayors, local city council members, other people I had worked with who were heads of groups and organizations, again that social service group—leadership—that I felt I could get. So they


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weren't lightweights.


Vasquez

And in fund-raising?


Molina

In fund-raising, not only did we look at a lot of people that I had been working with that I knew or I thought would commit to me for money, but I had a whole cadre of feminist women and leaders that I had been involved with. People that I had been involved in their campaigns and helped them get elected. I thought I might be able to turn around and get money from them. So it wasn't anything to sneeze at. I mean, we were doing that.

Now, we said to ourselves, one of the things was, "Chicanas never run. Men are not going to . . . . I mean, they're not going to elect a Chicana." And this is a very Latino district. Very Chicano. Very macho, as they say. So we did an analysis of the district, and we put together $5,000. All of us kicked in some money, and we went and talked to a political consultant. We said, "We want to know. Can a woman win in this district? What kind of problems would she have?" There wasn't much you could do other than analyze a couple of seats.


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At that time, all you could do was analyze how [Secretary of State] March Fong Eu ran in that district. How Yvonne Burke, who had run for attorney general, had done in that district. What we found in those figures was that basically they ran as well as they did in other similar Democratic districts. So that it was not a hindrance necessarily . . .


Vasquez

To be a woman?


Molina

Yes. We wanted to destroy everything that they had said I could not do. Like I said, we always accepted the fact that we needed to work twice as hard; we really physically went out and did that. I mean, I didn't dismiss it and say, "Oh, yeah. I'm better than you, because I say I am." We were sitting there figuring it out. "Am I better? Can I do it?" And we had all of this in place. We spent a lot of time putting that together. We didn't just go back to the men and say, "I should be considered just because I'm a woman and because I decided to run." We wanted to go back and say, "I should be considered, because I can raise money. I can get the endorsements. I can go out there and campaign.


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And I could do all these other things." We wanted to physically show them documentation that was the case. So we didn't go in there as some kind of a blank wave. So we were, I thought, very, very credible in our approach to them. Here we were doing all this work for a bunch of guys that told us we couldn't do it.


Vasquez

Did you ever get a hearing from them?


Molina

Yes.


Vasquez

Tell me about that.


Molina

All right. What happened was we were very persistent, as I said, and we demanded. We demanded that opportunity to be considered. Basically, they figured they would wear us out. But eventually it got to a point where they had to grant us that opportunity. To make that presentation, it was all a hush-hush kind of a meeting. Very few people knew about it—that I was supposed to go. I would go and make my case. Polanco would make his case. And they would make a decision. If I was willing to abide by the decision.


Vasquez

Who gave that caveat?


Molina

Richard Alatorre had set up that situation. And


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I submitted to it. I said, "I just want to have an opportunity. . . . I know I don't get to select the people that go in there, but I'd like to have an opportunity to take a couple of people that I want in there." He said no. He said I could take just one.


Vasquez

Who did you take?


Molina

I took Sandy Sewell. Sandy Serrano-Sewell.


Vasquez

Who was in that meeting?


Molina

In that meeting were Richard Alatorre; Lou Moret; [Daniel] Dan Arguello, who was AA to Richard Alatorre; George Pla; David Lizzaraga; Art Torres; Richard Polanco; and myself. The others, for the most part, had fallen off. In other words, Congressman Roybal was not that opposed to my candidacy.


Vasquez

So he wasn't there.


Molina

He wasn't there saying, "No, no, no." And Marty Martínez didn't seem to care. He was busy running for Congress. Estebán didn't seem to participate, although I think he had a proxy from David Lizarraga.

So I got invited. Basically the rules were made by Richard. And I sat there and basically


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said okay. Interesting dynamics went on in that meeting. They really wanted to screw with your mind, in a sense. I know it's not an appropriate term to use, but all the intimidating things that could be done were done before a word was ever said.


Vasquez

Like what?


Molina

Well, for example, when we got in there, it was an early morning meeting. Everybody's reading the paper, writing, starting to have a discussion about the stock market and about how the stocks were doing and, "How's your stock doing?" and "How's this thing?" And I mean, here we were, a bunch of poor Chicanas, right? [Laughter] Even if we knew about stock, we wouldn't have the money to invest in it. And here was this discussion going on, you know, as they were having their coffee and their rolls. A lot of it was to, I think, intimidate us. Of course, the question was something about stocks or investing in something. And Sandy was very good. She didn't let them intimidate her. She threw it right back at them. She goes, "No, I'm doing this with my money and this and that." She


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played right into it. I thought it was very good. It just stopped them, sort of.

But it was, by design, intended to create that kind of intimidation. The setup of where they sat and how they sat. It was Richard's office, so he was going to sit at his chair. And then there were three chairs like this. They had taken them, and then there was a couch in the back. [Laughter] So that was the only space left for us. And you could tell. But there was a little conference table next to the chairs. So Sandy and I went and grabbed one of those chairs and pulled it up right next to the table. It's all part of a game. It's all part of the thing. We had learned about it [Laughter] as feminists, to know that's part of what goes on, this whole power-playing that goes on. And we didn't allow them to do it to us. It's interesting. Those were the silent dynamics. Nothing had even been said about it. I mean, there was no meeting yet. Richard hadn't arrived or anything. We were all kind of getting ready for it.

So then the meeting proceeded. Richard


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outlined the rules and said, "This is how we're going to do it." Boom-boom-boom-boom.


Vasquez

Why was he running the meeting? As the chairman of the Chicano Caucus, or what?


Molina

No. He was just kind of the head.


Vasquez

Recognized?


Molina

Not appointed by anybody or elected.


Vasquez

But recognized by the rest?


Molina

Yes. Everybody else recognized him, and we had to recognize him. He was the one who held all the resources for that particular seat. Normally it would have probably been Art Torres, but Art was busy trying to run for a senate seat. So it was pretty much Richard who was calling all of these shots, who took the leadership role right up front.

So like I said, Richard was outlining the rules. So right away I had to challenge the rules because I didn't think the rules were fair. Basically, the rules said that they would listen to both of us as candidates. Then they would make a decision and they would let us know. One of the rules was that both of us would adhere to their decision. In other words, if


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they decided Gloria Molina, Polanco would not run. If they decided Polanco, then Gloria Molina would not run.

So they asked Polanco, first of all. They didn't ask me first. They asked him if he agreed, and he said no. I felt like one of the guys was going to go up and say, "Pendejo" [fool]. He didn't. He said no. He said, "I think I should run." One of the guys said, "This is just the rule part. We are just trying to get this down. All we want to do is. . . . Will you submit to it?" So he finally said yes. Kind of a conditional yes.

Then they asked me, and I said, "Yes, I will agree that if you decide to run that I should not be the candidate. I will adhere to it, and I will not run for that seat. I just want to know the reason why."

Richard said, "No, no, no. There's no reason. No reason."

I said, "No, no. I have to know the reason why. I have to know why I would not be selected by this group to be the candidate. So I'm willing to adhere to it. I just want to know the


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reason why." Then that was the pleito.

"We don't have to tell you."

I said, "But, oh, you do have to tell me. Because I think the reason why is because I am a woman. And if that's the reason why, I want you to tell me that."

"It's not the reason."

"Then I'm just asking you. If you decide against me, I just want to know why. Can I not raise the money? Can I not get the endorsements? Why won't you select me as a candidate? I need to know." So that's all I asked for.

The entire meeting, which lasted about an hour, was over the discussion of that. We tried to get off of that and go back into like a meeting: "Okay, make your presentation" type of thing. Very frankly, Polanco didn't do very well. I think it was, again, one of those situations where he felt like, "I have to prove nothing to nobody. These are my friends. They're going to vote for me, right?" And I came in loaded for bear. "What do you want to know? Money?" [Laughter] "Votes? What do you want to


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know?" So we were kind of all prepared to make a presentation. Which they didn't appreciate, by the way.


Vasquez

Why do you say that?


Molina

I don't know. It was like we had it, but he didn't have it. The design was to select Polanco. I mean, we knew that going in, but we weren't going to give them any room. So we said, "Do you want me to start with endorsements? Do you want me to start about the demographics of the district? Do you want me to start with money? What do you want me to do?" They really didn't like that at all, because they were hoping that I was going to sit there and say, "Oh, gee, you should select me, because I, gee, helped you, Richard. Gee, I helped you." That kind of thing. And we didn't. We were very prepared to make a very solid case as to why I should run. We weren't sure that we had all that, but we believed ourselves that we were going to make our case.

One of the things that was funny about it is. . . . Because one of the things Richard said is money. "So how much money can you raise?"


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We put a figure out. I can't remember. Fifty thousand?

"You need more than that."

I said, "Well, if we need more than that, we'll raise more than that."

One of the others—I can't remember who it was—Lou Moret or one of them said, "How much money do you have?"

And I said, "How much money do you guys have?"

And so Sandy said, "We've got $22,000."

And he said, "You don't have $22,000."

"Sure we've got $22,000. How much do you guys have?" And she said, "I'll bring my checkbook if you bring yours." It was that whole pleito over nothing. And it was just a matter of understanding what we were in there for.

Very clearly, I think after, what, forty-five minutes, they decided they weren't getting anywhere with us. I mean, they didn't intimidate us initially. They had not gotten us to submit to their rules 100 percent. Everything that they thought they were going to do in that room didn't occur. So then I stepped out of the meeting. We


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felt really good about ourselves when we went to the airport. And we felt really good because it was an intimidating situation.


Vasquez

The meeting was up in Sacramento?


Molina

It was up in Sacramento. It was extremely intimidating. I mean, the whole thing. I mean, here you are, this candidate, and you're going in there sort of begging in a sense.


[End Tape 4, Side A]

[Begin Tape 4, Side B]

So it was a very, very intimidating kind of a situation. At one point in time I said to myself, "I'm glad I didn't cry." I mean, that's how I felt. That at least I was able to get through that meeting.


Vasquez

Cry from anger?


Molina

From anger and from frustration and from being painfully hurt by these guys. And I would say as a woman. I didn't. All we did was we kept up with them. No matter how fast they ran, we were right there with them, neck-and-neck. No matter what they said, we were prepared. No matter how and whatever direction they tried to trick us, we were ready. And it was because we had prepared


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for that meeting. We had really said, "What are they going to do? What are they going to say to us? What are they going to want? How are they going to . . ?" You know, we figured out what was going to happen, and we had figured out that we were not going to come out of there as victors.


Vasquez

At least without an endorsement?


Molina

Yes. I mean, if I would have gone in there very naively and thought, "Gee, let me make my case, then make this presentation. . . ." They were going to say, "Let's make this. . . ." We knew that going in, the intent of that meeting was to get me out of the race. That was the intention. And they weren't successful in that regard. I had basically counted on the fact that they would not be willing to make a decision. They would make the decision, but the fact that they wouldn't tell me the reason, I was not going to abide by it. And I challenged them. I said, "I think you're going to tell me it's because I'm a woman. And I want you guys to say that."


Vasquez

This was already 1982. Why would being a woman be seen as a drawback by them?


Molina

Oh, for a Chicana, it was still. . . . We were


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still way back there. We were still way back there. I mean, March Fong Eu may have won for her seat. There were women in the legislature, but there were no Chicanas. There were practically no Chicanas anywhere. I mean, Polly Baca [Barragan] may have been elected at that time in Colorado. There weren't many of us out there. There really weren't.


Vasquez

Do you think it was a pragmatic concern by these fellows that they would not be successful in running you? Or that there was something inherently weak, wrong, or unacceptable about a woman in politics?


Molina

Well, I think what it really comes down to. . . . And there are differences between men and women in office that have been proven time and time again. First of all, the so-called old boys network. It really is a very, very functional part of politics.


Vasquez

What is it based on?


Molina

It's based on how they get along and what they do for each other.


Vasquez

On trust?


Molina

I don't know if it's similar values. I don't


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know what it is, but automatically, a man is part of it.


Vasquez

By virtue of being a man?


Molina

Yeah.


Vasquez

Any man?


Molina

Almost.


Vasquez

Any man can become part of the old boy network?


Molina

Almost. What they want is someone who is going to be. . . . That they're going to be comfortable with. To invite in. To be part of that process. I mean, a woman's different.


Vasquez

I'm trying to get at what it is that's different. Early in the history of the California legislature, there were some theories. They made the argument: there were no bathrooms for women if they came up there. That was an argument. Where were they going to go to the bathroom if they are elected?


Molina

I mean, let's face it. Sexism was going on. It was fully operational amongst these guys for all different kinds of reasons. Some of them were worried their wives were going to get taken away from them. Here was this woman all of a sudden. "What are we going to do when we get


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together and go drink? Have this woman with us? What about decisions? What kind of decisions? Is she going to be able to go along?" All of these things, I think, were doubts that they had, because they had never worked with a woman at the same level, or had those kinds of opportunities. So it was a difficult thing for some of them to accept. I think a lot of it is because of the sexism that continues to exist, you know. All of them were strong on. . . . They were very proud of the fact that they took feminist positions. They were pro-choice.


Vasquez

Right. Exactly.


Molina

That they supported Comisión Femenil and all of that.


Vasquez

And welfare mothers.


Molina

Yes, the whole thing. But I think down deep inside, when it came to the issue of the relationship with one another, one, and the power. . . . I mean, "A woman? We're going to give her power?" I mean, there were very few of these seats available. Very few of them. So to be sharing them with women was. . . . You know,


235
I'm not so sure they necessarily wanted to do that. It was a matter of power and diluting that. So they were very intimidated by it all. And they have been. There's no reason why they should be, but they are. Anyway, we ran. It was a tough, tough campaign.


Vasquez

Wait. You're getting ahead a little bit.


Molina

Am I?


Vasquez

Yes.


Molina

[Laughter]


Vasquez

You got back from the meeting, what was the discussion?


Molina

What do you mean what was the discussion?


Vasquez

What was the discussion? Were you going to run anyway? Had you already decided you were going to run anyway no matter what happened in that meeting?


Molina

No. No.


Vasquez

All right.


Molina

No, no. We went into that meeting. We knew that they were not going to endorse us, okay?


Vasquez

But there was a hope they might?


Molina

There was a hope that there would be something there that they would listen to. In here we had


236
made a good case. There might be a chance that somebody might let us make a good case, but we didn't believe. . . . It was more so that maybe if they saw how effectively we handled that meeting, they might be willing to support us. But that wasn't the case at all. It wasn't the case at all.


Vasquez

So how, when, and with whom did you decide that you should run anyway?


Molina

Well, the thing is . . .


Vasquez

It couldn't have been an easy decision.


Molina

No. It was a very tough decision. We still weren't sure after that meeting. Richard said he'd get back to us. That we were supposed to not say anything about that meeting. It was supposed to be kept secret.


Vasquez

Did you abide by that?


Molina

Yes, at the time. Absolutely.


Vasquez

Did you get back to him?


Molina

Well, the thing is, he didn't get back to us right away. So we had to call him. And there was no decision that was made at the meeting. And I said, "What do you mean there was no decision that was made?"


237

"No, we didn't make any decision."

And I said, "What does that mean?"

"Well, what can I tell you? We didn't make a decision." It was another part of their game. You know, what should I do? Sit around and wait till they made a decision. Come on. So that's when we felt there were a lot of games going on. That's when we decided, "Let's go. Let's go for it. Let's try to put it all together. Let's go for the endorsements. Let's try it all." And that's when we went. We started putting it all together.


Vasquez

What was the immediate reaction from this group of men when you did announce that you were running anyway?


Molina

That I was disrespectful.


Vasquez

Explain that.


Molina

Well, you know, they said that they were going to make a decision, and I wasn't sitting around waiting for their decision.


Vasquez

So it was nondeferential?


Molina

Yes. Exactly. So they were really resentful of that. I felt, "I've got to move on. I've got to do these things." Then it continued with the


238
game. I said, "Richard, one on one, I want to talk to you. I want your endorsement."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Call my secretary, and get a meeting." And even with Art Torres, it was hard. It was real hard.


Vasquez

Art Torres wasn't in that initial meeting?


Molina

He was in the initial meeting, but he wasn't in the . . .


Vasquez

The showdown meeting. We'll call it the showdown meeting.


Molina

Actually, he was. He walked in at the end.


Vasquez

All right.


Molina

He walked in at the end. And it was interesting, because he didn't like the dynamics either.


Vasquez

How do you know?


Molina

Because he said something about it in one part of the meeting; when we talked about, "I need to know why," he reinforced it. He said, "She's right. You've got to tell her. You've got to tell her." That kind of thing. So he was more supportive in that meeting. I mean, he didn't sit there and make a case for me. But then again, I didn't expect him to. He needed these folks to help him run against Alex García.



239
Vasquez

Right.


Molina

So he wasn't going to . . .


Vasquez

Which was not an easy race.


Molina

So he wasn't willing to go in and say, "Hey, come on, Richard" and all the others. He didn't do that. But at least he was creating a much fairer kind of situation by interjecting every so often.


Vasquez

Now he ultimately did come around to your side. How did that happen? And why did he?


Molina

We worked him hard. [Laughter] We lobbied him. We did the whole thing. We had to make a presentation. "I really need your endorsement. It will be very important to me." We told him how I had a chance of winning and about all the people that were going to endorse me and support me. We had to make a real case for Art.


Vasquez

Was this before or after the group had said, "You are not [it] . . ."


Molina

Oh, after.


Vasquez

Okay.


Molina

This is after. Because Art didn't give me his endorsement right away. We worked it. The other thing is I had to make a commitment that, "I don't plan on taking anything away from you." In


240
other words, "You've got to raise money to run, too, and so do I. All I want is your endorsement. I'm not going to ask you for money. I do need those things, but I know you've got a race to do."


Vasquez

Was it a quid pro quo? What did you give him?


Molina

Well . . .


Vasquez

What were you going to give him in return for his endorsement?


Molina

You know, I'm trying to think of when I sat there and we negotiated. . . . No, I was automatically endorsing him whether he was going to endorse me or not. And our group of women were automatically supporting him.


Vasquez

Why was he different than the others?


Molina

What others?


Vasquez

Why was he perceived as different from the others in that meeting by the feminists and the group around you?


Molina

Not only because he had hired me and I worked for him and I had brought him closer to a lot of those feminists, but he was married to Yolanda Nava, who was also part of Comisión Femenil and also a very active feminist in her own right. So


241
there was a lot of that kind of a connection that was . . .


Vasquez

But Richard had also opened some doors for you?


Molina

Yes, initially. Richard was the one who, first of all, got us up in Sacramento the first time. And he, you know, was very helpful. Absolutely. But we had worked with both of them very much.


Vasquez

I'm trying to get at what the difference had become by then between the two. Was it that Art seemed more supportive or more open to things?


Molina

Art was more supportive.


Vasquez

And more open to women in politics?


Molina

Art was not necessarily as caught up in the intimidation of having a woman around.


Vasquez

Was he less of a member of this "in" group?


Molina

He was less of a member. I mean, you know, he wasn't. . . . I mean, he didn't do the "drinking buddies" kind of routine that they all used to do.


Vasquez

Do you feel that endorsing you cost him anything?


Molina

I think, yes, it did. He got criticized from that group again and probably threatened. I don't know what they did. Somebody probably said, "Hey, I'm not going to give you money," or


242
"I'm not going to" whatever. That may have occurred. I'm sure he paid the price for it. But I also know there were a lot of women who supported me—who would walk for me on a Saturday—and the following weekend, "I've got to go walk for Art" kind of thing. So, hopefully, it helped him as much.


Vasquez

Was this the beginning of a political alliance?


Molina

Oh, we had a political alliance.


Vasquez

Already?


Molina

Yes. We had worked together. So we did have a political alliance, and I was very grateful. And Art, believe me, didn't help me at all.


Vasquez

In the endorsement?


Molina

Right. He couldn't. I mean, he had a big job to do, and it was really, really rough. Sometimes we got into little battles about style and things of that sort, because I think he was taking a beating from those guys. Every so often, Art was hard on me.


Vasquez

How so?


Molina

Oh, critical of what I said. How I moved around. Things like that. I think a lot of it was because those guys were probably constantly


243
critical of him. Because I was such a pain to their other candidate. Because they were all supporting him. But they were also now having to raise money, "Because she's raising money and campaigning" and doing all those things. They thought I was going to be a pushover.


Vasquez

Okay. Tell me about the race against Polanco. The results were pretty close.


Molina

Yes.


Vasquez

Tell me about that.


Molina

Well, I'll tell you. It's interesting. Once you got into a campaign. . . . And I had great people around me in this campaign, really great people. I must tell you that I can't remember as much about Polanco as a candidate as I remember about everything that I did. Because I don't know exactly what they were doing. But we were working our fannies off.


Vasquez

So it was a pro-Gloria rather than an anti-Polanco campaign, is that it?


Molina

Yes.


Vasquez

Tell me about the Fifty-sixth Assembly District as you remember it.


Molina

Well, it's the most Latino district in this state


244
and is, unfortunately, the lowest registered as far as voters are concerned in the entire Southwest. It's very low. It was made up—at that time—of about 80 percent Latino.


Vasquez

Mostly Mexican?


Molina

Mostly Mexicanos.


Vasquez

It was also one of the poorest, wasn't it?


Molina

Yes, very poor neighborhoods. It's the Eastside and the Southeast portion of L.A. It included all of unincorporated East L.A. and Boyle Heights and the downtown portion. The inner city portion of Los Angeles. Then it had communities like Maywood, Bell Gardens, city of Commerce, Vernon. They were all kind of poor. A lot of their voters are white, but they're poor communities in L.A. But, again, it was mostly a Chicano district. And it's all compact. It's very compact. A lot of the assembly districts are scattered. Again, we had learned to become good planners and very effective at developing a plan and implementing strategy. I hired people to help me with all of it.


Vasquez

Who were some of the people that worked for you in the campaign?



245
Molina

Well, I hired a political consultant by the name of [Patricia] Pat Bond, who is my consultant now. And Fred Register. Those were the two consultants, political consultants, that we hired. Sandy Sewell was the key fund-raiser. She was doing a lot of the activities around of the fund-raising. Pat and Fred were wonderful in devising a plan that was going to work: what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. I was sure that I wanted to walk the whole district. Which we did. I was a good walker. I had been doing that in other campaigns, knocking on doors and talking to voters. That was the best thing in the world. Some of them disagreed with me; some slammed their doors on me. But for the most part, it was just a wonderful, very embracing kind of situation where people were glad that I came to their door: glad to see a woman making a decision to run, who wanted to talk about issues. They were impressed that I could articulate them, and all of those kinds of things. It made you feel really good to go out there. Even though every so often, one would slam their door, and that would make you angry,


246
there was always somebody next door. I was particularly impressed with the older women, because I felt those are the ones that aren't going to support me. You know, there were a lot of them. They were very good voters, those old women! And I was nervous about them, because I had been led to believe that—for the most part—they were very traditional, and they were going to see me just out of my . . .


Vasquez

Element?


Molina

Uh-huh. And they were . . .


Vasquez

But it was different?


Molina

Huh?


Vasquez

It was different?


Molina

It was different. That was one of the best parts about that campaign that I remember: going and knocking on doors. A lot of senior citizens, for example, in Boyle Heights and unincorporated East L.A. Older women who said, "God, that's. . . . Qué bueno que estás corriendo por esto puesto." [It's good you're running for this post]. I mean, just really were wonderful about it.


Vasquez

I think they're going to pull you out in a couple of minutes. Why don't we stop here?



247
Molina

But I think that was important. To me that was the part I remember a lot.