Politics

Cram for Tuesday's special election: Gomez, Ahn issue-by-issue comparison

Democrats Jimmy Gomez, left, and Robert Ahn, right, compete in Tuesday's special election for the 34th Congressional District seat.
Democrats Jimmy Gomez, left, and Robert Ahn, right, compete in Tuesday's special election for the 34th Congressional District seat.
Courtesy of Jimmy Gomez for Congress and Susanica Tam for KPCC

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About 303,000 registered voters in the 34th Congressional District in Los Angeles have a chance to pick their next U.S. House member on Tuesday, and the choice is between two largely like-minded Democrats battling over who's more liberal than the other.

Whomever voters pick will represent the district at an especially disruptive time in the country's history, with decisions on the line that could have consequences stretching for decades.

The contest is between state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Robert Ahn, an attorney. Both are sons of immigrants — Gomez's family immigrated from Mexico and Ahn's from South Korea. They have similar views on charter schools, immigration reform and the environment. 

But the two candidates' experiences do differ — Gomez has been in the state legislature since 2012, Ahn has worked at private law firms and for his family's business — and a close comparison of their political views shows some divisions. 

If history is a guide, the winner could hold the seat for a long time. Xavier Becerra, the district's former congressman and now California's attorney general, served 12 terms in Congress. The deep-blue district was one of a handful in California that voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary last June.

The district, covering communities stretching from Eagle Rock to the Ninth Street Junction and from Koreatown to El Sereno, has a high poverty rate and struggles with major infrastructure, homelessness and crime problems.

Like much of Los Angeles County, district voters have a record of participating in low numbers: in the primary race, when Gomez and Ahn joined a field of 23 candidates, just 14 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

On Tuesday, polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters also can cast early ballots this weekend from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at three locations in the district. The locations also serve as drop off locations — if you bring your completed vote by mail ballot, you can skip the line. Additional information is available on the county's elections website.  

Candidates' stands on key issues

Below is a breakdown of the candidates' positions on major topics. For additional information, you can also check out KPCC's candidate survey based on questions put to Ahn and Gomez before the primary. 

Voters can also read more on the race in our Voter's Edge guide, a collaboration with MapLight and the League of Women Voters' of California Educational Fund. Just type in your address and a sample ballot appears with links to information on the candidates.

Issue Gomez Ahn
Party Affiliation Is a lifelong Democrat. He says he is willing to work to bring Republicans over to his side but will fight hard to protect policies like the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Gomez says he will "not negotiate the demise of the ACA, or legitimize immoral immigration policies." Was a Republican from 1997 to 2012. He grew up in a Republican household and says he switched parties after realizing the party didn't align with his value system. He says he is willing to listen to GOP members of Congress, but his ultimate allegiance is to the district and its residents.
Health Care Supports a single-payer healthcare system. He has called the possible appeal of the ACA "the biggest threat facing our district." Says he'd support a single-payer healthcare system in the near future. He also supports the ability of individuals to purchase insurance across state lines.
Gas Tax and Fees Voted for the state gas tax package that will raise gasoline taxes by 43 percent to 47.3 cents per gallon beginning in November. Vehicle owners will also be charged a new fee. Gomez believes the gas tax will greatly improve public safety and help improve California's infrastructure problems. Although this is a state issue, Ahn has criticized Gomez for voting for the gas tax. Like other critics, he has called the gas tax a regressive tax that disproportionately affects the poor. Ahn believes the gas tax hits residents too hard and is not good for the district.
Immigration Supports protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. Supports protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and advocates for comprehensive immigration reform.
Sanctuary Cities Supports so-called sanctuary cities and says he'd be a non-negotiable "no" vote on any proposals that include the possibility of blocking funding for them. Currently supports so-called sanctuary cities and says he opposes any policy that puts undocumented immigrants on the hook for potential deportation. He supports a city's right to legislate how they want local law enforcement to interact with federal officials. As recently as April, however, he did not address whether he supported sanctuary cities directly in a Los Angeles Times candidate survey and wrote: "Continued existence of 'sanctuary cities' is ultimately going to be addressed in the courts... I think the reality is that if the issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court and the court agrees to hear the matter, the ruling will ultimately be against sanctuary cities."
Criminal Justice Reform Co-authored a bill to ban for-profit prisons in California. He also supports bail and sentencing reform for non-violent offenses. Lists the top problem in the district as crime. He has pledged to reinstate the Cops on the Beat program, which funds community policing programs, on his first day in office. He says he would do this by working to ensure community block grants stay in the federal budget.
Charter Schools Supports charter schools that are accountable for their results. Does not support unregulated charters or vouchers which would fund sectarian and for-profit schools. Supports charter schools that are accountable for their results. Does not support unregulated charters or vouchers which would fund sectarian and for-profit schools.
Tax Reform Supports comprehensive tax reform. Wants to end the carried interest loophole. Wants to maintain the Mortgage Interest Tax deduction, the state and local tax deduction, child care credits and the earned income tax credit. Supports tax reform programs that are revenue neutral and don't negatively impact the poor. He doesn’t want the budget deficit to go any higher. He also supports corporate tax reform that would allow for bringing money back from overseas.
Climate Change Does not support the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement. Calls pulling out "science denial" and says it undermines trust and cooperation with U.S. allies. Does not support the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement. He supports climate change programs, and backs efforts to curb greenhouse gases. He wants California to maintain its lead in this area.