Voters in the 34th Congressional District in the Los Angeles area will pick their next U.S. House member on Tuesday, and if fundraising is any indication, the results may be close.
Former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Robert Ahn and state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez are nearly tied when it comes to campaign financing.
According to the latest data from the Federal Election Commission, Ahn has the fundraising lead with $1.37 million. That's helped in large part by three loans he personally made to his campaign totaling nearly half a million dollars. Gomez closely trails in fundraising with $1.32 million.
Ahn's loans, which are somewhat rare among campaigns given their size, have tightened a race that some Democrats expected would be a slam dunk for Gomez.
The April primary featured 23 candidates on the ballot. From that field, Gomez came in first with 25.3 percent of the vote. Ahn followed in second place, capturing 22.3 percent of the ballots cast.
"Make no mistake about it — having a lot more money than your opponent helps, but it's not determinative," said USC Professor Dan Schnur, a longtime watcher of local politics and former communications director for Sen. John McCain.
"This is a large amount of money for an individual to contribute, but it's certainly not unprecedented and Ahn is not breaking any records in terms of self-financing at the congressional level," Schnur said.
Even given Ahn's fundraising, Schnur said Gomez has a larger base of support. And given that the district as a whole is 64 percent Hispanic according to census numbers, the demographic advantage goes to Gomez, who has family roots in Mexico.
Vote by mail returns, meanwhile, appear to indicate Ahn has an early advantage. Researcher Paul Mitchell found that Korean Americans have returned vote by mail ballots at a higher rate than Latinos in the last few weeks. Ahn's family is from South Korea.
That, too, may or may not prove critical. "The question is who turns out on election day," Schnur said.
Gomez amassed a string of endorsements early on. His backers include such major names in the California Democratic Party as Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. He also won the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times' editorial board and Our Revolution, a political group formed following Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.
Ahn, a first-time candidate, has the backing of L.A. City Council member David Ryu and the L.A. Daily News' editorial board. He recently gained the backing of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican. Ahn was a registered Republican from 1997 to 2012.
Polls open tomorrow at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. To locate your polling place, visit the L.A. County registrar's site.
For additional resources on the election, including an issue-by-issue breakdown of where the candidates stand, check out the KPCC website.