Politics

Gomez and Ahn appear headed to runoff in 34th Congressional District special election

Democrats Jimmy Gomez (L) and Robert Ahn (R) were the frontrunners following the special election for the 34th Congressional District on Tuesday.
Democrats Jimmy Gomez (L) and Robert Ahn (R) were the frontrunners following the special election for the 34th Congressional District on Tuesday.
Courtesy of Jimmy Gomez for Congress and Susanica Tam for KPCC

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Voters in the special election for the 34th Congressional District appeared to send Democrats Jimmy Gomez and Robert Ahn to a runoff, according to semi-official results from election officials. 

No candidate won more than 50 percent of the votes, and so the top two candidates will face off in a June 6 runoff. A final tally of votes may not be released until Friday, but with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Gomez – who currently represents much of the district in the state Assembly – led with 28 percent of the vote. Ahn, a former L.A. city planning commissioner, followed with 19 percent. 

Maria Cabildo, who earned the endorsement of the L.A. Times, came in third, with 9.6 percent of the vote – trailing Ahn by more than 2,700 votes. 

In all, 23 candidates were on the ballot. The list included 19 Democrats, as well as a Republican, a Green Party member, a Libertarian and one candidate with no party preference. Of the candidates running, 12 were women. 

The Los Angeles-area district, which was previously represented by California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra, includes communities like Boyle Heights, Chinatown, El Sereno, Glassell Park and Mount Washington. Becerra resigned from the seat following the election of Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate and his appointment to her former post as California's attorney general. 

Gomez was early on seen as the front-runner in the race. He earned the endorsements of much of the Democratic party establishment, including Becerra, State Senate leader Kevin de León, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

The success of Ahn – who, if elected, would be the only Korean American in Congress – has been a bit more surprising to political observers. Ahn leveraged significant resources to turn out Korean American voters, who early numbers showed outpaced other voters by three to one in vote by mail. 

In the crowded field, Ahn and Gomez had emerged as frontrunners in fundraising. Gomez raised more than quarter million dollars, while Ahn added $300,000 of his own money to the more than $330,000 he raised from donors. 

The results will come as a disappointment to progressive supporters of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The district went for Sanders in last year's Democratic presidential primary, and political observers have been closely watching this race for signals about the future of the party. But Sanders did not endorse in the race and the three candidates in the field who were closely aligned with him – Wendy Carrillo, Arturo Carmona and Kenneth Mejia – appear to have split their votes, each with similar levels of support. 

About 306,000 registered voters were eligible to participate. As of early Wednesday morning, county registrar Dean Logan announced that 29,407 ballots had been counted, with 9.6 percent of eligible registered voters casting ballots. 

Those numbers will rise in the days to come as more ballots are counted. The next round of counting is set for Friday. Election results are set to be certified on April 13. 

The special election cost more than $1.3 million, according to an estimate by the County of Los Angeles. In all, 190 polling locations were available throughout the district on Tuesday. 

The special general election is scheduled for June 6.