There were nearly two dozen contenders in the race for Xavier Becerra's seat in the 34th District, with Becerra having left to becoming California's attorney general. Wednesday morning, it was down to two: Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former city planner Robert Lee Ahn.
The two men will face off again in June. The deciding district stretches from Boyle Heights to Highland Park, Eagle Rock to Koreatown — but even people outside the district were watching closely.
Some speculated that the race could offer hints about the direction of the Democratic Party. KPCC's Take Two broke down the election with two guests:
- Mary Plummer, senior politics reporter for KPCC
- Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College
Jimmy Gomez was favored to win. He had several high-level endorsements, but early on he was painted as an establishment politician. Some even thought those endorsements could be a liability in a district that voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. Do you think the endorsements hurt him at all?
Mary Plummer: There was a lot of talk about that, but it didn't seem to play out with voters. Gomez was a frontrunner from the beginning. He really got out front early with endorsements and just kept adding them on. Becerra was among his backers, as was L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. He also had a really big leg up with name recognition. His state assembly district already covers half of the district's boundaries.
Jack, do you think the endorsements had any impact?
Jack Pitney: They definitely helped Gomez and increased his visibility, obviously. He had some name identification from his service in the Assembly, but getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval from a well-regarded incumbent was definitely overall an asset.
Gomez did latch onto progressive policies like single-payer health care. Was this a race where it seemed like candidates were trying to "out-progressive" each other?
Plummer: This race — at times — certainly did seem like a race to the left. Many of the 23 candidates competing for this seat listed fighting President Trump as a top priority. They agreed on a lot of issues — issues that are important to many liberal Democrats, like embracing sanctuary cities.
At a candidate forum I went to, it was clear that this is also what a lot of voters in this district were looking for.
Democratic strategist Eric Hacopian was quoted in the L.A. Times recently. He said:
"If Jimmy Gomez is too conservative for this district (and that would have been laughable just two years ago) that should tell you where the body politic is going."
What does this say to you about where Democratic politics are going in California?
Pitney: Definitely going to the left. We don't want to read too much into this single result, but if you look overall at the election of Kamala Harris to the United States Senate with results in other districts, progressives are definitely in the driver's seat in this state.
Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.
Bonus Audio: California Democratic Party's Daraka Larimore-Hall on the future of Democrats in the state.