Oropeza will be remembered as a champion for health and environmental causes. In 2008 she authored the Smoke-Free Cars With Minors aw.
She died Wednesday night of complications from a blood clot she developed in her abdomen in May. The clot led to a common side effect: a buildup of fluid in her lungs that affected her breathing.
The illness forced her to miss most of this year's session, including the vital votes earlier this month as the state passed a budget after a record 100-day delay. Oropeza's staff thought the senator was improving and they are shocked and saddened by her passing.
"She was known for fighting for women's health. She was also known for voters rights and she was also known for making sure that constituents have the highest level of service," said Robert Pullen-Miles, field district representative for Oropeza.
Oropeza was looking forward to winning re-election on November 2 and returning to Sacramento for a second four-year term. She faced Republican John Stammreich in the heavily democratic 28th District which encompasses much of the South Bay.
"There wasn't a lot of mudslinging back and forth and I think there are very few races in California where you can say that. We both had a lot of respect for each other and where we came from," said Stammreich.
Oropeza's name will remain on the ballot and, according to the secretary of state's office, she will be declared the winner if she receives a majority of the vote and a special election would be called to fill the vacancy.
Of Stammreich wins, he'll take office and no special election will be needed.
"Every race has to be earned. I still have to earn the right to represent my neighbors and fellow constituents here in the South Bay," said Stammreich.
Gov. Schwarzenegger issued a statement: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Senator Oropeza. She was a true public servant who positively impacted the lives of all Californians. Jenny was a champion for improving public health and her leadership will be missed."
Flags were flying at half-staff at the Capitol in honor of Oropeza.