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Clinton and Obama court Gloria Molina

The county supervisor is one of the nation's most powerful Latinas. Her first choice quit.

January 17, 2008|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

Bill has called for Hillary. Antonio has called for Hillary. Barack's people have called, though he has not personally phoned yet. He probably will, though.

After all, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina could be an important arrow in a Democratic presidential candidate's quiver of endorsements.

Now that her favorite, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, has quit the race, Molina is a sought-after prize. Candidates are courting Latino voters as never before, and Molina is one of the country's most powerful elected Latinas.

"Dinner invitations and flowers have not yet arrived," Molina said Tuesday in a telephone interview from her office. "But they are calling."

Molina, whose district stretches from Silver Lake to Pomona, said she was not interested in any quidpro quo for her support.

"I am not looking for any appointment. I don't need a front-row seat to the convention," she said. "My interest is in what they can do for this community when every day, I have to listen to Lou Dobbs take us under and make it worse . . . not just on immigration, but on how we are viewed in this country."

(The host of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" often rails against illegal immigration and has been accused of fomenting anti-Latino sentiment.)

Molina is fond of former President Bill Clinton. "When he calls, you melt," she said. "I campaigned for him, and we worked together and there is a lot [of history] there."

Hillary Rodham Clinton, she added, "was the backbone of many of his policy issues, so there's a respect there." Still, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called and said he could put the New York senator on with Molina immediately, the supervisor demurred. "I did ask for a little more time."

Molina, 59, is impressed with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's ability to inspire "the untapped resource in the Latino community: young people."

"I must tell you, I am so impressed with . . . the tone of the Barack campaign. It's so uplifting, so promising. I know that I am in a different age group, but when I listen to young people who respect and admire what he is doing, it reminds me of when I listened to John Kennedy for the first time."

Molina said she would make up her mind before Feb. 5. In the meantime, there is a Latino official who is fending off more insistent calls than she.

"I talked to Bill Richardson," she said. "He is holding out as well. And believe me, he is being truly wined and dined."


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