Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropeza has died following a prolonged illness. She was 53.
Oropeza had been largely absent from the Senate since her office announced in May that she had been diagnosed with a blood clot in her abdomen. The Long Beach Democrat, first elected to the Senate in 2006, had battled liver cancer and a tumor during her time in the Assembly.
Her own battle with cancer inspired her to become a champion of cancer prevention in the Legislature.
"I've always believed that we ought to regenerate the Earth and be concerned about ozone levels, but I didn't personalize it until I got sick," she told The Bee in 2005.
She carried legislation to curb fight cancer-causing chemicals and air pollution, including a ban on smoking at beaches and state parks. Earlier this year, she joined forces with Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, on legislation that would restore a program that provides mammograms to low-income women who do not have sufficient health coverage.
In an e-mail to Senate staff, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg mourned the loss of "a true public servant and a cherished part of our legislative family."
"She carried on her responsibilities through great physical challenge, which is an inspiration for all of us, and for that service we are grateful," Steinberg said .
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez issued a statement remembering Oropeza for her service, as well as her "charm and cheerful smile."
"From the time I worked with her on the Long Beach City Council, through our service together in the Legislature, I know she was a leader of conscience and compassion, and was an able and talented representative of her constituents," he said.
The CSU Long Beach graduate served on the Long Beach School District Board, the Long Beach City Council and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board before she was first elected to the Assembly in 2000. There she served as chair of the budget and transportation committees. The Democratic Caucus chairwoman is on the ballot for a second term representing the 28th Senate District.
She is survived by her husband, Tom Mullins.