Vida En El Valle: Introducing a new class of Latino lawmakers

December 12, 2016

By: Cynthia Moreno

Every year, a new group of Latino lawmakers win their respective legislative seats, come to Sacramento and take the oath of office, bringing with them a set of ideals, different life experiences, educational attainments, political career trajectories and personal stories.

This year’s newest members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus are no exception. From educators, to legal experts, and community leaders, all of this year’s new Latino members bring a wealth of experience to the table from diverse regions of the state and will likely play a dynamic role come January when the 2017-18 Legislative Session is set to begin.

Below are short profiles of the incoming members as well as their top policy priorities they have set on their agendas to be accomplished in the forthcoming year.

Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters

Quote: “I will be a strong advocate for rural California and for the issues that we care about, including education, agriculture, affordable housing, water and access to the Internet and will work with leaders in all six counties to make our city-- and District 4-- the very best that it can be.”

Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry, 62 made history in the small town of Winters when she became the first woman elected as Mayor. Representing California’s 4th Assembly District which includes all of Colusa, Lake, Napa and Yolo Counties, Dixon in Solano County and Rohnert in Sonoma County, Aguiar-Curry said during last Monday’s swearing-in ceremony for new lawmakers that she was “excited and humbled to have been elected by the voters of California’s 4th Assembly District. The swearing in with family- all present to celebrate- brought home the significance of this new adventure.”

Aguiar-Curry grew up around agriculture. From a young age, she cut apricots in the packing sheds, helped her father manage walnut orchards and eventually, she and her brothers became successful co-owners of the family’s 80-ace walnut farm. She earned business administration and accounting degrees from San Jose State University. She is also the owner of her own consulting firm specializing in water, public policy and community outreach.

In Sacramento, Aguiar-Curry wants to focus on health care and internet access, agriculture, small businesses and water issues. Her partner of 18 years, Larry Harris, her daughters Megan and Beth, and other family members were present to see her sworn in. The Latino Legislative Caucus endorsed Aguiar-Curry when she announced her candidacy for district 4. She replaces former Assembly member Bill Dodd, a Democrat who represented the district from 2014-2016.

Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona)

Quote: “We live in the greatest state in the nation, and it is critical, now- more than ever, that Riverside County is served by lawmakers who are effective, accessible, and committed to fighting for the best interests of local residents. I am proud of the campaign we ran, and I am humbled by the trust that voters from all walks of life and all political affiliations have placed in me. I cannot wait to get to work, representing the incredible people of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, and Riverside in the State Assembly.”

Sabrina Cervantes, 29, the former District Director for State Assembly member José Medina, D-Riverside and a former native of the Coachella Valley, has been a lifelong Riverside County resident who has focused on issues that matter to working families. In November, Cervantes’ win for the 60th Assembly District seat which covers parts of Riverside, Norco, Eastvale, Corona, Rubidoux, Mira Loma, Pedley, and Glen Avon, gave Democrats a supermajority in the State Assembly after defeating two-term Republican Assembly member Eric Linder, a Latino. She also became the first female Democratic Assembly member to be elected from Riverside County in over 20 years.

Cervantes is the youngest Assemblywoman, and one of a handful of Latinas at the California State Assembly. She is the daughter of Greg Cervantes, a former Coachella City Council member and mentor to several eastern valley officials like Congressman Raul Ruíz and Assembly member Eduardo García. She attended elementary and middle schools in Coachella and La Quinta High School. She is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside and holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science with a minor in public policy. She also completed an executive administration program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Prior to joining Medina’s office, Cervantes served as the Director for the California Voter Registration Project, where she spearheaded strategic planning for field operations to register new voters and increase civic engagement throughout the state. She served on the Board of Directors for the UCR Chicano Latino Alumni Association, and the non-profit organization, TruEvolution.

Cervantes’ top priorities in the 2017-2018 legislative session will include veterans issues, jobs and higher education.

Todd Gloria, D-San Diego

Quote: “I ran for this seat because I know about the issues that matter most to San Diegans like affordable housing, homelessness, environment and transportation infrastructure need a champion in Sacramento. That is exactly what I intend to be for my constituents.”

Todd Gloria, 38 a third-generation San Diegan is serving the 78th Assembly District which includes the central coast communities of the city of San Diego as well as Coronado, Del Mar, Imperial Beach and Solana Beach. He is succeeded by former Speaker of the California State Assembly, Toni Atkins.

From a very young age, Gloria took a strong interest in politics. At the age of ten, he was a runner-up in a “Mayor for a Day” contest. By the age of 14, he was doing volunteer work for local Democratic candidates in the 1992 elections. One year later, he met U.S. Congresswoman Susan Davis who became his political mentor. At the time, Gloria was a high school freshman and Davis was the director of the Aaron Price Fellows Program. In 2002, Gloria became Davis’s district director, a position that catapulted him to the San Diego City Council in 2008 when the seat was vacated by the termed-out former Speaker of the California State Assembly, Toni Atkins. He was re-elected to the City Council in 2012.

During his service in the San Diego City Council representing the third council district, Gloria became the Council President for two consecutive terms, and the City of San Diego’s Interim Mayor. Prior to his career in public service, Gloria worked for the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Gloria graduated summa cum laude from the University of San Diego, with majors in history and political science. As a student at USD, he was instrumental in adding “sexual orientation” to the campus non-discriminatory policy. He is a member of the Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and identifies as being a mix of Native American, a quarter Filipino, a little bit Dutch and Puerto Rican heritage.

As an openly gay man, Gloria is a former chairman of the San Diego LGBT Community Center and was a resident panelist on San Diego’s Prostitution Impact Panel. In Sacramento, he wants to focus on affordable housing, resources to fund support services for homeless individuals and would like to encourage prudent fiscal discipline in the State’s finances.

Monique Limón, D-Santa Bárbara

Quote: “In the Assembly, I will work hard to champion education, protect our natural resources and the environment, and prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future.”

Monique Limón, 37 has been an elected leader, an educator and a leader in education. While serving her second-term as a Santa Barbara Unified School Board Member, Limón decided to announce her candidacy for the 37th Assembly District to represent the cities of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Buellton, Solvang and parts of Oxnard. On Monday, she was sworn in to the California State Assembly.

A life-long Santa Barbara resident, Limón’s political trajectory was a difficult one. She began her education as a first generation, college-bound ESL student who eventually transitioned into the honors and GATE programs, respectively. She earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her M.A. in Education from one of the country’s top graduate schools in education: Columbia University, Teacher’s College.

For the majority of her professional career, Limón has worked with mentoring students of all ages. She was a Student Program Advisor for the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (CAL-SOAP) at Santa Barbara City College and coordinated the Parent School Partnership program, and financial aid workshops for all high school seniors and parents, and facilitated the “Transfer: Making it Happen” program for local schools in the district.

At the University of Santa Barbara, Limón was the assistant director of the distinguished McNair Scholars Program where she provided leadership and managed the United States Department of Education program. She was also an instructor for Interdisciplinary Studies Courses for undergraduate students at UCSB.

Limón is married to her husband Michael Medel who is the Director of Admissions and Records at Santa Barbara City College and Vice President of the 19th Agricultural District Association. The couple lives in Goleta.

In Sacramento, Limón wants to be a champion for education, protect the environment and create jobs for the future. She succeeded former Assembly member Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara who served in the Assembly from 2010 to 2016.

Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino)

Quote: “As a young girl, I learned the value of hard work picking grapes and onions in the fields so we could buy new school clothes.”

Eloise Gomez Reyes, 60 grew up near the train tracks in the community of south Colton in the 47th Assembly District which consists of Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Rialto, San Bernardino, and the unincorporated communities of Bloomington and Muscoy. As a dedicated attorney and community leader, Gomez Reyes’ rise in politics was a result of humble beginnings and determination.

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Eloise worked in the onion and grape fields since the age of 12 in order to pay for and buy clothes for school. After graduating from high school, she worked as many as three jobs to put herself through San Bernardino Valley College and eventually transfer to the University of Southern California where she earned her B.A. Then, she attended Loyola Law School where she earned her law degree.

Coming from a family of modest means, Gomez Reyes first language was Spanish. Her family had great aspirations for her and her siblings. They knew it would take great perseverance to obtain a top tier education in order to live a better life.

In the Inland Empire, Gomez Reyes was the first Latina to open up her own law practice, starting in San Bernardino and then in Colton, where she grew up. As a small business owner, her focus was on helping families in her community with a variety of legal issues like workers’ compensation. She worked with Legal Aid to provide free legal services to those who couldn’t afford proper representation.

In 2013, Gomez Reyes volunteered to represent Colton residents in a successful effort to prevent a toxic waste dump from being located in their neighborhood. She was also spurred to action when she noticed a lack of local affordable health care in her community, and organized a group of healthcare professionals start the Inland Empire Community Health Center. She was also invited to join the Dean’s Medical School Mission Committee for a future U.C. Riverside medical school facility.

Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Gomez Reyes was an adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona. She teaches students how democracy can work for everyone, not just the rich and powerful. She is also married to her husband Frank and has one son, Kristofer.

Gomez Reyes succeeds former Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown. In Sacramento, she plans to work on legislation for the survivors of the San Bernardino terrorist shootings, a clean economy with new jobs, investments in youth and making higher education affordable, criminal justice reform with safer neighborhoods, good health for seniors, ending gun violence, taking care of veterans, equality for LGBTQ communities and support for public safety workers.

Blanca E. Rubio, D-Baldwin Park

Quote: “It is an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of the 48th Assembly District. I look forward to working in the Assembly to give working families the resources they need to succeed.”

Blanca E. Rubio, 46 was elected to represent the 48th Assembly District which includes the cities of Azusa, Baldwin park, Bradbury, City of Industry, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Irwindale, Monrovia, West Covina, and the San Gabriel Valley unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, including Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, East Arcadia, Ramona, Valinda and West La Puente.

Rubio was born in Juárez, México and came to the United States with her parents at a young age for the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. She understands the firsthand struggles and barriers that immigrant and working class families face because she lived those experiences firsthand. She was an educator for sixteen years before she decided to run for politics.

Before being elected to the Assembly, Rubio was a classroom teacher and an elected school board member helping improve local schools and her community. As the daughter of a factory worker and a housekeeper, Rubio has dedicated her life to public service.

In 1997, she became the youngest person elected to the Valley County Water District and in 2003, was elected to the Baldwin Park Unified School District Board of Education where she served two terms as both President and Vice President. As an educator, she helped improve academic standards in classrooms and put children on the path toward a college education, or a career. She also helped increase the graduation rates for seniors in high school, reaching a record high of 96 percent along with improved test scores.

Rubio is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Master’s Degree in Education with a multiple subject teaching credential from the same. She is married with children.

In Sacramento, Rubio wants to give working families in her district the resources they need to succeed in school and in their communities.

Returning members to the California Legislature include Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula (31st AD), Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra (39th AD), Assembly Member Anna Caballero (30th AD), and Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva (65th AD).


Contact the Reporter: Cynthia Moreno /