Jennifer Ann "Jenny" Oropeza (September 27, 1957 – October 20, 2010) was the California State Senator for the 28th district which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Torrance; the Los Angeles communities of Cheviot Hills, Bel Air, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Lennox, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Palms, Playa del Rey, Rancho Park, San Pedro, West Los Angeles, Westchester, Wilmington and Venice; and part of the city of Long Beach.
Oropeza was elected to her first term in the California State Senate in November 2006 and garnered 62 percent of the vote. Oropeza died less than two weeks before the November 2, 2010 election, in which she had been expected to easily win reelection. Her name remained on the ballot in the 28th Senate District. Oropeza posthumously won reelection on November 2, 2010.
She served in the California State Assembly for six years prior (2000–2006) to her time in the Senate. Oropeza ran for California's 37th Congressional seat in a June 2007 special election following the death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald but lost the primary to Laura Richardson. Oropeza and Tom Mullins married in August 1977.
Oropeza graduated from Alhambra High School and received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California State University, Long Beach. She began her career in public service by serving two terms as student body president at California State University, Long Beach. During that time, she was appointed by the governor to the Board of Trustees of the CSU system.
Early political career
Oropeza was the first Latina to serve as a member of the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education and held office from 1988 to 1994. In 1994, she was elected the first Latina member of the Long Beach City Council and won re-election in 1998. As an MTA board member from 1996 through 2000, Oropeza represented the southeast cities of Los Angeles County and served on MTA's Planning and Programming and Construction committees. While with the MTA, she also chaired the Goods Movement Committee of the Southern California Association of Governments.
Oropeza was a member of the California State Assembly from 2000 to 2006 for the 55th Assembly District. In January 2002, with barely a year's experience in the Assembly, Oropeza was named chair of the Assembly Budget Committee — on the eve of the worst deficit in California history. She served two years. From 2004 to 2006, Oropeza chaired the Assembly Transportation Committee.
She was Vice Chair of the dual-house Latino Caucus. In 2005, the League of California Cities' Latino Caucus named her Legislator of the Year; in 2006, the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters awarded her the Smith-Weiss Environmental Champion Award for her work on issues from air pollution and cancer prevention to radiation and environmental advocacy. She had long supported transportation improvements, including Proposition 42 in 2002, which sought to dedicate a portion of gasoline taxes toward construction.
California State Senate
Run for the State Senate
On June 6, 2006, Oropeza won a very close Democratic primary against former Assembly member George Nakano. Oropeza was endorsed by the California Democratic Party and the California League of Conservation Voters. Nakano was endorsed by Congresswoman Jane Harman and California Assemblyman Ted Lieu. Oropeza captured 52.8% of the vote to Nakano's 47.2%.
Committees and caucuses
Oropeza chaired the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee and was a member of the Appropriations; Transportation; and Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committees. She also chaired the select committees on Integrity of Elections and Public Health and the Environment and was a member of the Select Committees on the Alameda Corridor and Asian Pacific Affairs. In addition, she was a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Fiscal Oversight and Bonded Indebtedness, the Senate Subcommittee on California Ports and Goods Movement, as well as the Streamlined Sales Tax Project board of governance and the Commission on the Status of Women. As one of 26 Latinos in the Legislature, Oropeza chaired the California Latino Caucus Policy Committee on Environmental Justice.
Upon election to the State Senate, Oropeza introduced 24 bills. The policy areas ranged from preventing smoking in cars while minors are present (SB 7) to increasing the efforts of the California State Controller to contact the owners of unclaimed property (SB 920). She introduced legislation in the areas of local sales, massage therapy, teacher credentials, and air pollution in ports.
Health and Death
In 2004 Oropeza was treated for liver cancer. She was admitted to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center for difficulty breathing, but later died there the evening of October 20, 2010. She had been undergoing treatment for a blood clot in her abdomen since May 2010.
Since her death, Oropeza has been honored by the Democratic Women's Study Club in Long Beach, which posthumously awarded her the Political Leadership Award, which will in future years be called the Jenny Oropeza Political Leadership Award. Centro CHA in Long Beach posthumously awarded Oropeza the Create Change Community Service Excellence Award, which will in future years be called the Create Change: Jenny Oropeza Community Service Excellence Award. The Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club created the Jenny Oropeza Ally of the Year Award, which like the other two awards, was first given in 2011.
As a tribute to the late Senator Jenny Oropeza’s dedication to fostering protections for key California-state public health programs, the Los Angeles County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in joint collaboration with the six other California-based Komen Affiliates (“the California Collaborative”), established the Senator Jenny Oropeza Public Policy Internship position.
The City of Long Beach named the community center in Cesar E. Chavez Park the Jenny Oropeza Community Center. On December 8, 2011 the Los Angeles Unified School District dedicated the Jenny Oropeza Global Studies Academy. The Academy is one of four academies at the Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School.
In August of 2012 the California Legislature approved the naming of the ”Honorable Jenny Oropeza Memorial Overcrossing” for the section of Pacific Coast Highway in Wilmington that created the bridge that spans the Alameda Corridor. The Alameda Corridor did not have the money to complete this overcrossing and Oropeza worked with Federal, State and local government entities, as well as the railroads and Metropolitan Transportation Authority to find the funds to construct this last and critical portion of the project.
An annual scholarship the Senator Jenny Oropeza Memorial Scholarship, is awarded at California State University, Long Beach, each year to a student who is committed to a career in public service.
- Archived version of Oropeza's official senate webpage
- Biography from the 2007 campaign for Congress preserved at smartvoter.org
|California State Assemblymember
December 4, 2000 – November 30, 2006
|California State Senator
December 4, 2006 – October 20, 2010