Gomez poised to beat Ahn, win Cal­i­for­nia spe­cial elec­tion

Both can­di­dates are chil­dren of im­mi­grants

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Latino vot­ers ap­pear poised to power one of their own, Cal­i­for­nia As­sem­bly­man Jimmy Gomez, to vic­tory Tuesday in a spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion that has turned into a test of the power of two as­cen­dant mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties.

Both fi­nal­ists for the seat are Democrats who emerged from the April pri­mary as the top two vote-get­ters in this de­cid­edly blue district in Los An­ge­les County.

Mr. Gomez, the son of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, faces lo­cal lawyer Robert Lee

Ahn, the son of South Korean im­mi­grants. Mr. Ahn is bid­ding to be­come the first Korean-Amer­i­can elected to Congress in two decades.

“I think most po­lit­i­cal ob­servers are ex­pect­ing a fairly com­fort­able win for Gomez, who has stronger name recog­ni­tion in the district and very high sup­port from the Latino com­mu­nity,” said Matt A. Bar­reto, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at UCLA and co-founder of the Latino De­ci­sions polling firm. “Ahn ran a very strong cam­paign in the pri­mary, how­ever, in the runoff there just aren’t enough votes to get him over 50 per­cent.”

Mr. Gomez has na­tional pro­gres­sive groups on his side, including Democ­racy for Amer­ica and Our Rev­o­lu­tion, the group that Sen. Bernard San­ders founded fol­low­ing his 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid.

He also has the back­ing of the former con­gress­man, Xavier Be­cerra, who gave up the seat to be­come state at­tor­ney gen­eral, and of Gov. Jerry Brown, Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti and newly minted U.S. Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris.

That back­ing has fu­eled Mr. Ahn’s charge that Mr. Gomez is the “es­tab­lish­ment” pick in the race — a po­lit­i­cal insider be­holden to spe­cial in­ter­ests and deep-pock­eted donors.

Mr. Gomez points to Mr. San­ders as his de­fense. “If I was so es­tab­lish­ment, I don’t think Our Rev­o­lu­tion … would ac­tu­ally en­dorse me,” Mr. Gomez said in a de­bate last week. “If you want a lit­mus test, that’s a lit­mus test if you’re a pro­gres­sive … if you’re ac­tu­ally able to take on the sta­tus quo.”

Mr. Ahn, mean­while, has claimed the man­tle of out­sider in a district that sup­ported Mr. San­ders in his race for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion against Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“On Day 1, I owe the peo­ple of the 34th District, and that’s it,” Mr. Ahn said in the de­bate, dis­miss­ing Mr. Gomez’s claim that he would fight for the lit­tle guy.

Ini­tially the race was billed as an early op­por­tu­nity for the San­ders wing of the party to fill the seat with a can­di­date of their choice.

But San­ders sup­port­ers failed to co­a­lesce be­hind a sin­gle can­di­date in the jun­gle pri­mary in April that fea­tured over 20 can­di­dates — three of whom cam­paigned un­der the San­ders flag. Nei­ther Mr. Gomez nor Mr. Ahn were among those.

Mr. Gomez placed first with 25 per­cent of the vote. Mr. Ahn cap­tured 22 per­cent of the vote.

The district is 65 per­cent His­panic and 20 per­cent Korean — one of a num­ber of Cal­i­for­nia seats where mi­nori­ties dom­i­nate. Those races have in­creas­ingly tested the Demo­cratic coali­tion — though the can­di­dates gen­er­ally es­pouse the same views.

Both men say they would ex­pand health care, raise the min­i­mum wage and de­fend il­le­gal im­mi­grants against a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ef­fort to more strictly en­force the law.

“Jimmy Gomez is a strong pro­gres­sive with a proven his­tory of ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship for the com­mu­nity,” said Parke Skelton, a Gomez spokesper­son. “As a union or­ga­nizer, teacher and mem­ber of the state leg­is­la­ture, Jimmy Gomez has a deep un­der­stand­ing of the strug­gles faced by fam­i­lies in this ex­tremely di­verse com­mu­nity.”

James Lee, a spokesman for the Ahn cam­paign, said his boss spent the fi­nal day of the cam­paign re­mind­ing vot­ers that Mr. Gomez voted in fa­vor of a gas tax hike that will hurt low-in­come fam­i­lies and the race “has boiled down to an out­sider ver­sus and insider.”

“Gomez is [backed] by the Demo­cratic Party and spe­cial in­ter­ests, ver­sus Robert, who has no prior po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, has not sought of­fice be­fore, but was born and raised in the district and is one of their own,” Mr. Lee said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

As­sem­bly­man Jimmy Gomez is backed by the lib­eral wing of his party, but fel­low Demo­crat Robert Lee Ahn seeks the same va­cant con­gres­sional seat.

Ahn

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