Latino, Korean influence tested in California House contest

Angie Massey
June 7, 2017

A state assemblyman campaigning as a true progressive is up against a city official who distinguishes himself as "not a professional politician", as the two Democrats contest a vacant US House seat in a special election in California tonight.

The run-off vote in California's 34th district pits Robert Ahn, a Los Angeles city planning commissioner, against California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez.

Ahn is part of what could be described as a political breakout for Koreans, who have not had one of their own in the U.S. House since the late 1990s. Xavier Becerra vacated to become state attorney general. Two Democrats, Ahn, a Korean-American, and Jimmy Gomez, a Hispanic, are in a Tuesday, June 6, 2017, runoff for a U.S. House seat that is testing the boundaries of racial politics.

Two years ago, David Ryu became the first Korean-American to hold a City Council seat in Los Angeles. However, Asians make up only about 15 percent of the roughly 300,000 registered voters in the district, which was carried by Bernie Sanders in last year's Democratic presidential primary. Quick refresher: former California attorney general Kamala Harris's ascendance to the Senate set off a game of political musical chairs: Governor Brown appointed Becerra to replace Harris as state AG, meaning Becerra's Congressional seat representing L.A.'s 34 District was suddenly open for business.

Two Democrats are almost tied in early returns in a runoff election to fill an empty U.S. House seat in Southern California.

Ahn has attacked Gomez as a "professional politician" and a "corporate Democrat" who has taken money from corporate interests.

The 41-year-old Ahn is running as an outsider.

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The district boundaries are nearly completely within the city of Los Angeles, where voters appeared to be living up to their reputation for mostly ignoring local elections.

The outcome of the special election in the heavily Democratic district will not change the balance of power in Congress.

The pick of the Democratic establishment is state legislator Jimmy Gomez, the son of Mexican immigrants. Should Ahn win the election, he would be the first Korean-American to serve in the House since Jay Kim served in the House from 1993 to 1999.

"As they say, they are the future", Narvaez said, gesturing toward two girls sitting on steps outside a precinct near downtown Los Angeles.

Half the voters are Latino, and about 16 percent Asian. Small elections with barely any voters taking part seem to be the new normal in Los Angeles, thanks mostly to Democratic incumbents taking advantage of the opportunity to move up without completing their elected terms. But Gomez was the overwhelming favorite of voters at the polls, a sign of the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote operations that typically come with union and party endorsements.

Two Democrats are in a runoff for a vacant U.S. House seat in Southern California.

Other reports by GizPress

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