LOS ANGELES (AP) — State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez emerged from a large field of candidates to gain a spot in a June runoff for an open U.S. House seat from Los Angeles and his likely opponent is former city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, a fellow Democrat and also a son of immigrants.
Gomez, elected to a third Assembly term in November and considered the front-runner in the 34th Congressional District race, had 28 percent to Ahn's 19 percent with about 29,000 votes counted Tuesday night. Maria Cabildo, former director of homeless initiatives for Los Angeles County, was third with about 10 percent.
William Morrison, the only Republican in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, had 4 percent.
There still are thousands of mail-in ballots to be tabulated but Gomez won't crack 50 percent of the overall vote and so he'll face a runoff on June 6. Ahn has a comfortable lead on Cabildo but she gained ground during the night Tuesday and could close the gap as remaining votes are counted.
The Harvard-educated Gomez, 42, is the son of Mexican immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1970s. His record in the Legislature reflects the liberal-leaning city and state where he lives. He's backed by leading environmental groups, who credit him for supporting clean energy, and has been an outspoken supporter for expanding paid family leave for workers.
He supported Hillary Clinton in last year's presidential race, though Bernie Sanders narrowly carried the 34th District in the Democratic primary.
During his House primary campaign Gomez said he wants to protect California's policies in Washington and was "running to take a hard stand against Donald Trump."
Gomez wants debt-free higher education for all who attend public colleges, believes the Affordable Care Act should be maintained and improved, calls Trump's immigration policies an agenda of "fear and division," and said he "will fight income inequality and is committed to raising the minimum wage and securing worker protections under attack by the Trump Administration."
Gomez said Tuesday night that his showing represented "the emergence of a new, progressive Democratic coalition that is based on ideas that we're going to represent everybody."
The 34th District seat was left vacant when seven-term incumbent Xavier Becerra became California attorney general this year and 23 candidates — 12 of them women and all but three Democrats — sought the job. Becerra was among many in the Democratic establishment who supported Gomez.
Ahn, 41, is an attorney who until February was a Los Angeles city planning commissioner appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ahn was far ahead of the field in fundraising, and enjoyed strong support among the district's Korean-Americans. His parents are from South Korea.
"The Korean-American community hasn't had a voice in Congress for over 20 years," Ahn said as returns were coming in Tuesday night. "So this is a community that has been consistently underrepresented, and now they're starting to find their voice."
Ahn criticized Trump and "extremists" in Congress for attempting to undo the Affordable Care Act, believes climate change is an urgent threat, wants to close detention centers for immigrants and enact comprehensive immigration reform, and "is firmly and unequivocally committed" to supporting Israel.
The 34th District race was the first congressional primary since Trump was elected in November and could provide a hint about the direction of the Democratic Party, at a time when Republicans are in charge of Capitol Hill and the White House.
However, voters mostly ignored the race. The ballots counted Tuesday represented just under 10 percent of registered voters.
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