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Molina, Torres Battle in 1st District Runoff


Either Los Angeles City Councilwoman Gloria Molina or state Sen. Art Torres will be the first Latino in this century on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Molina and Torres outpolled seven other candidates last month in a special election to represent the county's newly drawn 1st District. A runoff election between the two will be held Feb. 19 because neither received more than 50% of the vote. Molina got 34.58% and Torres 25.71%.

The new campaign is expected to be lively and contentious because of the powerful position the two liberal Democrats are seeking and the bitter rivalry between them. Molina began her political career working in Torres' 1974 Assembly campaign, but they had a falling out in 1982 when Molina ran for Assembly and he backed her unsuccessful foe.

The rivalry has also divided the Eastside political establishment: Torres is backed by a longtime friend, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, and by Assemblyman Richard Polanco. Molina has received support from Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Reps. Esteban Torres and Ed Roybal, the dean of Latino Democrats.

While Torres marshals support from trade unions, Los Angeles City Hall and Alatorre's Eastside political machine, Molina is looking to more liberal Latino politicians and women's groups.

During the early campaign, the two candidates often took similar positions. Both said they would stop salary increases for the county's top bureaucrats, use fewer private firms to provide county services and support creation of a citizens' panel to review cases of alleged abuse by sheriff's deputies.

But they also have differences.

Molina, 42, has stressed that she opposed prison construction in East Los Angeles before Torres did. Torres, 44, has argued against a proposed business license tax in unincorporated communities, saying it would hit hardest in the county's least affluent areas, such as East Los Angeles. Molina has said she would be open to considering the tax, noting that most businesses within city boundaries already pay such fees and that the money is needed for health and mental health programs.

A federal judge ordered the special election last year, finding that the boundaries drawn by the all-Anglo board discriminated against Latinos.

The new district stretches from Echo Park east to Irwindale and La Puente and southeast to Santa Fe Springs. Seventy-one percent of the district's residents and 51% of its registered voters are Latino.

The winner will take office March 8.

Jan. 22 Election Results

Candidate Votes Pct. Gloria Molina 26,567 34.58% Art Torres 19,756 25.71% Sarah Flores 15,738 20.48% Charles Calderon 12,185 15.86% Gonzalo Molina 1,352 1.76% James Mihalka 591 0.76% Louis Chitty III 292 0.38% Khalil Khalil 178 0.23% Joe Chavez 158 0.20%

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