LOS ANGELES (AP) - Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and city planner Robert Lee Ahn, both Democrats with immigrant parents, emerged Tuesday from a crowded field to lead the race for an open congressional seat from Los Angeles.
The 34th District was left vacant when seven-term incumbent Xavier Becerra became California attorney general this year and 23 candidates - 12 of them women and all but three Democrats - sought the job.
Gomez, elected to a third Assembly term in November, was considered the front-runner but Ahn mounted a strong challenge. With about 15,000 votes counted, Gomez had 27 percent to Ahn’s 25 percent. Maria Cabildo was a distant third with about 7 percent and William Morrison, the only Republican candidate in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, was fifth with about 5 percent.
Ahn led when the first tabulations were released but lost ground to Gomez in subsequent updates. Still, Gomez was far from the majority needed to avoid a June runoff and Ahn’s big lead over Cabildo made him the likely opponent.
Ahn, 41, is an attorney who until February was a Los Angeles city planning commissioner appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Gomez, 42, who represents the same area in the Assembly, had the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, including Becerra.
Both candidates are the sons of immigrants. Ahn’s parents are from South Korea and Gomez’s are from Mexico. Ahn was far ahead of the field in fundraising.
It is the first congressional primary since President Donald Trump was elected in November and could provide a hint about the direction of the Democratic Party, at a time when Republicans are in charge of Capitol Hill and the White House.
However, voters mostly ignored the race. County election officials said a sample from 15 precincts in the district mostly within the city of Los Angeles showed turnout was in the single digits. Vote-by-mail ballots also lagged.
In some aspects, the contest was a continuation of last year’s Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Several candidates pointed to the Vermont senator as an inspiration, and they echoed his agenda from last year, calling for closing the wealth gap and establishing health care for all.
Trump was a frequent target for many candidates.
Ahn criticized Trump and “extremists” in Congress for attempting to undo the Affordable Care Act, believes climate change is an urgent threat, wants to close detention centers for immigrants and enact comprehensive immigration reform, and “is firmly and unequivocally committed” to supporting Israel.
Gomez wants debt-free higher education for all who attend public colleges, believes the Affordable Care Act should be maintained and improved, calls Trump’s immigration policies an agenda of “fear and division,” and said he “will fight income inequality and is committed to raising the minimum wage and securing worker protections under attack by the Trump Administration.”
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