Growing up in Texas, Helena Moreno wanted to be a reporter. But as an immigrant from Mexico, she struggled with English as her second language. She persevered and ultimately pursued a successful career as a television anchor on the New Orleans-based team that won an Emmy for its coverage during Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008, she unsuccessfully mounted a primary challenge against Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (who was convicted on bribery charges the following year). Two years later, she ran for an open state House seat and won. As a legislator, Moreno has authored several major domestic violence bills, including one that overhauls how victims are treated by law enforcement and health-care workers.
Last year she was elected to the New Orleans City Council and will take office in June.
She plans to implement a program requiring domestic abuse offenders to turn in their firearms. She also wants to retool how local police respond to reported rape and other abuse cases. “Women have been put on the back-burner for so long in this state,” she says, “and I think people are just looking for someone to take the ball and run with it.”