California’s newest State Senator Lena Gonzalez, just won her seat for District 33 in a special election. California Globe garnered an interview with Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) after running into her on her first day in the Capitol, prior to being sworn in.
When asked to share a little about her personal background, Lena Gonzalez says the most important thing she wants people to know is that she’s a mom. “We have a blended family with three boys – 18, 12 and 4,” she said. Her youngest spent most of last week with her in Sacramento.
Gonzalez described her own upbringing as “humble.” Her father was a truck driver, and her mother, an immigrant from Mexico, worked her way up in the aerospace and tech industries. Gonzalez said she learned the value of working hard from both of her parents, and was impressed with her mother’s successful career advancement.
Gonzalez has a B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach, and a MBA from Loyola Marymount University.
Gonzalez said her mix of private sector work, and her public service provides her a healthy balance. Prior to entering politics, Lena Gonzalez worked in the private sector for Microsoft as the corporate-affairs manager in charge of the company’s philanthropy for all of Los Angeles. She is currently on leave from Microsoft.
Gonzales worked for the Long Beach City Council before she ran for and won a council seat in 2014. She served on the council until 2019 when she ran for the open Senate seat vacated by Sen. Ricardo Lara when he was elected State Insurance Comissioner.
Gonzalez was sworn in Wednesday, June 12, with former Senator Ricardo Lara administering the oath of office. Gonzalez said there were many interested in the District 33 seat vacated by Lara, but Lara, who she had worked with over the course of her years on City Council, tapped her to run for his old Senate seat. “He said I was perfect for the seat,” Gonzalez said.
As for issues she’s concerned about in the 33rd District, Gonzalez said 30 percent of the district in under the poverty line. The 33rd District is as diverse as it is large. The Port of Long Beach is in the district, and is the second-busiest container port in the United States, after the Port of Los Angeles, which it adjoins.
East Los Angeles is also in District 33, as are the cities of Vernon, Huntington Park, Bell, South Gate, Cudahy, Lynwood, and Paramount, Cudahy, Bell, Bell Gardens, Lynwood, Maywood, Signal Hill, Paramount, South Gate, Vernon, Walnut Park, Huntington Park, most of Long Beach with portions of the cities of Lakewood and Los Angeles to achieve population equality.
Gonzalez said some of the issues she’s gearing up for as Senator include the 710 freeway extension, greenhouse gas emissions issues at the Long Beach Port, as well as poor water quality in parts of the district.
She is interested in creating a small business task force in her district with local elected officials. “I come from a large city but have to be mindful of smaller cities, which don’t have the resources of larger ones,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also said Southeast Los Angeles has high poverty as well as corruption issues.
As for pet projects Gonzalez is interested in, she said the census is top on that list. “The census is immediate because we have very hard-to-count, hard-to-reach communities, including the largest Cambodian community in the country,” Gonzalez added. Having fled the Communist Party and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, nearly 120,000 Cambodians now reside in Long Beach. “They now want to be more involved and have a voice,” Gonzalez said, “and this is being driven by older women.”
She said she will work on parenting issues, and wants to create a “Parent Caucus” in the Legislature – “something many of us have in common.”
Gonzalez noted that the Legislative Latino Caucus is the largest it has ever been with 29 members, and currently the Legislature has a record number of Latina women holding office.
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