CA House contest tests Latino, Korean influence

Angie Massey
June 8, 2017

However, Asians make up only about 15 percent of the roughly 300,000 registered voters in the district.

And the puny turnout - less than the total vote for Democrat Jon Ossoff in the first round of his April primary for Georgia's 6th District - pointed to the difficulty Democrats often face in getting Latino voters to the polls for nonpresidential elections. His rival, fellow Democrat and attorney Robert Lee Ahn, was celebrated in the Korean-American community.

Paul Mitchell, who runs Political Data, told the Times that the Ahn campaign did a "magnificent job in really energizing their base in this election".

But the Harvard-educated Gomez, 42, the son of Mexican immigrants, was the pick of Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The seat became vacant when longtime Rep. Xavier Becerra, another Democrat, stepped down after being appointed state attorney general. Those were all important assets in a race largely ignored by voters. It adds: If Ahn had won, he would have become the second Korean American elected to the House and the first Korean American Democrat.

But the contest Tuesday has been made competitive by an energized Korean-American community that wants to see Ahn become the first Korean in Congress in almost two decades. Steven Choi, who was born in South Korea, was elected to the state Assembly in 2016. Late vote by mail and provisional ballots are still to be tallied, but they aren't expected to change the outcome.

Like Gomez, he won the endorsements of progressive groups and labor unions - and party machines. Gomez snagged 25 percent of the votes and Ahn received 22 percent.

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Republicans account for less than 10 percent of voters.

He acknowledged the obvious in the era of President Donald Trump when he said "we are the resistance".

Gomez has emphasized his legislative know-how and broad support within the party ranks and from organized labor. Ahn, a former Los Angeles planning commissioner, embraced the role of an outsider who wanted to shake up politics as usual.

A Latino legislator pulled out a tight victory in a traditionally Latino congressional district in Los Angeles in a battle with a Korean-American trying to become the sole "Korean voice in Congress". The 34th district covers communities that include Boyle Heights, Koreatown, Eagle Rock and El Sereno.

Early on, Gomez had been designated the frontrunner given his name recognition as a state assemblyman and former political director with the United Nurses Associations of California. Two Democrats, Gomez who is Hispanic, and one Korean-American, Robert Lee Ahn, are in a Tuesday, June 6, 2017, runoff for a U.S. House seat that is testing the boundaries of racial politics.

FILE- In this June 15, 2014, file photo, Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles appears at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.

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