Politics

What you need to know for today's special election runoff

FILE PHOTO: Voters take part in early ballot casting at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk in Norwalk on Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Voters take part in early ballot casting at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk in Norwalk on Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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About 303,000 registered voters in the 34th Congressional District in the Los Angeles area have a chance to pick their next U.S. House member today.

Voters will choose between two Democrats who share similar views on many issues but differ greatly in backgrounds and experience.

The contest is between state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Robert Ahn, an attorney. Gomez, who was elected to the California State Assembly in 2012, has family roots in Mexico, which should give him an advantage in the heavily Hispanic district. His parents and four siblings immigrated to California in the early 1970s.

Ahn's parents are from South Korea. Ahn has worked for his family's business as well as at private law firms. He has tapped local Asian communities for support and it has paid off in early vote by mail ballot returns. One analysis based on returned mail ballots shows Korean Americans casting ballots at a higher pace than Latinos.

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 were among 23 candidates on the ballot, just 14 percent of registered voters voted. 

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can look up your polling location information via the L.A. County's elections website. If you have a vote by mail ballot, the postmark deadline is today.