Luis Lopez, an openly gay Latino, is running for the California Assembly in the 51st District, which includes all of unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno, Hillside Village, Hermon, Montecito Heights, Lincoln Heights, Garvanza, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Chinatown, Silver Lake and nearby communities.
Lopez was born into an immigrant family in East Los Angeles; his mother passed away when he was 8, according to his campaign website, lopezforassembly.com. He has been with his partner, political consultant Hans Johnson, for eight years.
Lopez has served as president of the East Area Planning Commission for the City of Los Angeles, co-chair of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and is also a three-term veteran of the City of Los Angeles Central Regional Volunteer Neighborhood Oversight Committee for Prop. K Funds.
Lopez’s opponent is Jimmy Gomez, a straight man currently serving as political director for the United Nurses Association of California. Gomez’s bio and positions may be found at his campaign website, jimmygomezforassembly.com.
Gomez and Lopez finished first and second respectively in the primary election last summer and will therefore be the only two names on the ballot under new state election rules. Lopez has been endorsed by the Stonewall Democratic Club, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and the California National Organization for Women, among other groups and individuals.
Gomez is supported by the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and others.
Frontiers recently interviewed Lopez by email. Asked why he thought the Democratic Party is supporting his opponent, Lopez said, “When it comes to politics, we all know that money plays a major role and holds too much sway in elections. My opponent comes out of an organized interest that is a hefty donor to the Democratic Party. He comes out of machine politics and from outside my district, fueled by Sacramento interest money. In contrast, I come from my community. More than 300 local leaders throughout my district have endorsed me. More than 1,400 individual donors have invested in my campaign, many of them neighbors within my district.”
Lopez has also been endorsed by the California Small Business Association. Frontiers asked him how he planned to bring jobs to the district and enhance small business prospects. “My own first job was helping teenagers get employment, and it helped me get to college, so I know how important early experience and local opportunities are,” Lopez responded. “I come from nonprofit health care and have worked with small business owners in my volunteer council and commission roles. Jobs in health care, technology and clean energy and entertainment and the arts are set to locate and expand here in Los Angeles over the next decade. My district is a hub for these three growing sectors, and in the Legislature I will push to bring home those jobs. We need to sustain and increase our state incentives for buying and hiring locally, and honor those businesses that comply with licensing and training requirements in building their enterprise. We need to make our state as small-business-friendly as possible, including realizing the promise of health care reform to make coverage more affordable to owners and workers. We also need to sustain our state’s long-term investment in public schools, community colleges and state universities—and keep our campuses affordable—to create a well-prepared workforce.”
As a founding board member of HONOR PAC, a political action committee dedicated to empowering the Latino LGBT community, Lopez sees Latino political activism as important in the election. “The reality is that LGBT Latinas and Latinos and our allies hold tremendous political power,” Lopez said. “We are starting to represent ourselves quite well. We are part of the reason the Democratic Party and President Obama now endorse marriage equality and are fighting for the DREAM Act and immigration reform, honoring the hard work of immigrants. Across California and in other states, we are part of a strong coalition anchored in a commitment to full recognition and respect for LGBT people and families.”
Asked what he would do to protect HIV/AIDS services in California, Lopez responded, “Fully funding clinics and life-saving services for people with HIV/AIDS and their families is key. So is education among the most vulnerable communities, to stop the disease and ensure its earliest possible detection and treatment. I will realize in California the promise of federal health care reform to bar denials of care because of preexisting conditions and to make drugs more affordable. I know many friends and families who will benefit from these overdue protections. But AIDS is not over. We need renewed state leadership to counteract its impact, and that’s what I will provide.”
With the state in truly dire straits, the importance of voting this cycle, particularly at the local level, cannot be overstated, for whomever the votes might be cast.