23 candidates in race for open US House seat in California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Twenty-three candidates were competing Tuesday for an open U.S. House seat in Southern California in a race highlighting rifts in the Democratic Party.

The crowded contest in the heavily Democratic district that includes downtown Los Angeles is being watched nationally for what it might say about the direction of the party. It's the first congressional primary since President Donald Trump's election in November, and Republicans also control Congress.

In some aspects, the contest looks like a continuation of last year's Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Several candidates point to the Vermont senator as an inspiration, and they are echoing his agenda from last year, such as closing the wealth gap and establishing health care for all. Meanwhile, front-runner Jimmy Gomez, a state Assemblyman, has the backing of much of the state Democratic establishment.

The seat was left vacant by Xavier Becerra, who stepped down after more than two decades to be appointed state attorney general.

The outcome could be unclear for days or even weeks, given the large number of candidates splitting the vote. A sparse turnout is expected, opening the way for possible surprises.

Under California election rules — sometimes ridiculed as the "jungle primary" — all candidates appear on a single ballot, regardless of party.

If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote to win outright, the two top finishers head to a June runoff. With 23 candidates, it's likely no one will reach that threshold.

 Only about one of 10 voters in the district is Republican. Most of the candidates are Democrats and, not surprisingly, Trump has been a frequent target.

The field is as diverse as the nation's most populous state. There are a dozen women, two immigrants and a Korean-American candidate, Robert Lee Ahn, on the ballot.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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