Gomez Defeats Ahn in Special Congressional Election

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Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez and his wife Mary embrace when he is declared the winner of the congressional race.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez of Eagle Rock will be sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives later this month after defeating public interest attorney and fellow Democrat Robert Lee Ahn in a special election in the 34th Congressional District.

Gomez, defeated Ahn, 60.12 to 39.88 percent or 19,761 to 13,108 votes, according to semi-official results released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Many outstanding ballots remain to be counted, according to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, who said an update on the ballot count will be released Friday.

The results are tentatively scheduled to be certified on June 16, with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors scheduled to declare the results official on June 20, Logan said.

“Mr. Ahn and I spoke by phone, and I welcomed his congratulations on our victory,” Gomez said Tuesday night. “I made it clear that his historic run will be remembered and that we will join together to build a stronger Los Angeles for everyone.”

The special election was prompted by Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of then-Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) as attorney general, succeeding Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Becerra and Harris endorsed Gomez, who said he hopes to “continue to build an inclusive and diverse country that values people from all walks of life.”

Gomez said he ran in order to fight President Donald Trump.

“I’ve always believed that in times like these its important to run towards the fight and not away from it,” Gomez told City News Service. “From expanding paid family leave, to leading the nation in the fight against climate change, we’ve demonstrated that progressive values are achievable. In Congress, I will work to build a new progressive coalition that puts our values first.”

Gomez concedes that the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, “was not perfect,” but he said he will fight to protect the gains made through the legislation. He has also called for immigration reform and vows to fight rollbacks by “climate change deniers.”

Gomez promised the district’s voters “that no matter what, I’ll put their values first.”

Born and raised in Southern California, he graduated from UCLA, then earned a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University.

Gomez was the political director of the United Nurses Association of California and worked with several other unions, and also worked in the offices of then-Councilmember Mike Feuer (now city attorney) and then-Rep. Hilda Solis (now on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors). He was elected to the Assembly in 2012, and re-elected in 2014 and 2016.

Gomez topped the 24-candidate field in the April 4 primary, collecting roughly 25 percent of the vote, with Ahn second with 22 percent. Because no candidate received a majority, Gomez and Ahn were forced into Tuesday’s runoff.

The third-place finisher, former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Maria Cabildo, endorsed Gomez, as did former candidates Vanessa Aramayo, Alejandra Campoverdi, Wendy Carrillo, Yolie Flores, Sara Hernandez, Raymond Meza, Tracy Van Houten and Tenaya Wallace.

Gomez’s high-profile supporters included The Los Angeles Times, the California Democratic Party, Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Supervisor Solis, Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. County Federation of Labor, United Farm Workers of America, Sierra Club, and National Organization for Women.

Gomez did not concede the Asian Pacific American vote to Ahn, saying during the campaign, “I am proud of my record of serving the APIA community, and am honored to have the support of so many leaders from the community.”

Those supporters included Reps. Judy Chu (chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus) and Ted Lieu; Los Angeles Community College District Trustee Mike Fong; Rick Eng, national board executive, Chinese American Citizens Alliance; Suellen Cheng, Chinese American Citizens Alliance Los Angeles Lodge; James Santa Maria, vice president, Asian American Small Business Political Action Committee; Joel Jacinto, former executive director, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans; George Yin, former board member, Organization of Chinese Americans; and Ryan Carpio, president, Pilipino American L.A. Democrats.

The district stretches roughly from Koreatown in the west to the Long Beach (710) Freeway in the east and from the Santa Monica (10) Freeway in the south to the Ventura (134) Freeway in the north. It includes all or part of Downtown, Hollywood, Hancock Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, City Terrace, El Sereno, Mt. Washington, Montecito Heights, Glassell Park, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Bangladesh, Historic Filipinotown, and Westlake/Pico Union.

Congressional candidate Robert Lee Ahn talks to the press on Election Day.

Ahn, a Korean American, was looking to break through in a traditionally Latino district, saying there has not been a “Korean voice in Congress” for two decades, “and never from the Democratic Party.” He would have been the second Korean American in Congress following Rep. Jay Kim (R-Diamond Bar), who served from 1993 to 1999.

Ahn painted himself as a political outsider not beholden to special interests. A Los Angeles native, he has a law degree from USC and once worked as a clerk for former District Attorney Ira Reiner before practicing law at a variety of Southland firms. He later joined his family’s real estate and asset-management business.

Former Mayor Richard Riordan called Ahn “clearly the best candidate.” Other endorsers included City Councilmember David Ryu, former City Councilmember Mike Woo (the first Asian American on the City Council), former Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose, former Assemblymembers Warren Furutani and Richard Katz, former City Controller Rick Tuttle, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council board member Ian Young, and Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray, retired pastor of First A.M.E. Church.

Ahn was appointed to the city’s Redistricting Commission in 2011 by then-Councilmember Garcetti, who as mayor appointed Ahn to the city Planning Commission. He vowed to fight efforts to repeal Obamacare, to support investments in clean energy infrastructure, to resolve the nation’s immigration visa backlog and to push for “humane immigration reform.”

Gomez’s victory creates the need for a special election to fill his Assembly seat. Announced candidates so far are justice reform advocate Frank Carrillo and community advocate Wendy Carrillo.

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