Politics

Voters scarce in race for open US House seat in California

This 2017 photo provided by the Wendy Carrillo For Congress Campaign shows Wendy Carrillo, one of several candidates for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in a strongly Democratic district in Southern California. The outcome of the election Tuesday, April 4 election could be a hint at the direction of the party in the Trump era. (Rafael Cardenas/Wendy Carrillo For Congress Campaign via AP)
This 2017 photo provided by the Wendy Carrillo For Congress Campaign shows Wendy Carrillo, one of several candidates for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in a strongly Democratic district in Southern California. The outcome of the election Tuesday, April 4 election could be a hint at the direction of the party in the Trump era. (Rafael Cardenas/Wendy Carrillo For Congress Campaign via AP)
Rafael Cardenas via AP

Twenty-three candidates competed Tuesday for an open U.S. House seat in Southern California in the first congressional primary since President Donald Trump was elected in November.

The outcome of the race in a district mostly within Los Angeles 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 appeared to mostly ignore the race.

County election officials said a sample from 15 precincts in the district mostly within Los Angeles showed turnout was in the single digits. Vote-by-mail ballots also point to an uninterested electorate.

In some aspects, the contest in the heavily Democratic district appeared to be a continuation of last year's Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Several candidates point to the Vermont senator as an inspiration, and they are echoing his agenda from last year, such as closing the wealth gap and establishing health care for all. Meanwhile, front-runner Jimmy Gomez, a state Assemblyman, has the backing of much of the state Democratic establishment.

The seat was left vacant by Xavier Becerra, who stepped down after more than two decades to take the job as California's state attorney general.

The outcome could be unclear for days or even weeks, given the large number of candidates splitting the vote.

The sparse turnout opens the way for possible surprises.

Under California election rules — sometimes ridiculed as the "jungle primary" — all candidates appear on a single ballot, regardless of their party affiliation.

If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote to win outright, the two top finishers head to a June runoff. With 23 candidates, it's likely no one will win in the first round.

Only about one of 10 voters in the district is Republican. Most of the candidates are Democrats and, not surprisingly, Trump has been a frequent target.

The field is as diverse as the nation's most populous state. There are a dozen women, two immigrants and a Korean-American candidate on the ballot.