Newly Elected Southland Assembly Members Take Oath of Office

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Six days after emerging victorious in runoff elections to replace Assembly members displaced by sexual harassment allegations, Luz Maria Rivas and Jesse Gabriel were sworn in today to represent districts covering large swaths of the San Fernando Valley. 

Rivas, a Democratic former Los Angeles public works commissioner, defeated Republican business owner Ricardo Antonio Benitez in the June 5 special election in the 39th Assembly District, which includes North Hollywood, Mission Hills, Sylmar, Arleta and Lake View Terrace. 

Rivas, who has an electrical engineering degree from MIT, founded the Pacoima-based nonprofit Do-It-Yourself Girls, which offers programs encouraging girls to pursue education and careers in science and technology fields. She said she hoped to work with local businesses to help them compete with large corporations, and fight for ``quality educational opportunities that prepare them for higher-paying jobs.''She takes over the 39th District seat that was left vacant by the November resignation of Raul Bocanegra, who stepped down in the face of harassment allegations. Rivas will serve out the remainder of Bocanegra's term, which runs through the end of the year. 

Rivas and Benitez will square off again in the November election as they fight to fill the seat for the term that begins in January. Gabriel, meanwhile, was sworn in to represent the 45th Assembly District. He will fill out the term of Matt Dababneh, who also resigned due to harassment allegations. Gabriel, a Democrat, defeated Republican Cal State Northridge student Justin Clark last Tuesday to win the seat. The pair will square off again in November to win the seat for the upcoming term. 

A constitutional rights attorney and member of the County Commission on Local Government Services, Gabriel is involved in a pair of lawsuits challenging the federal government's plan to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects thousands of young immigrants from deportation. The UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School graduate has advocated for stronger gun-control measures, making higher education and housing more affordable and expanding access to health care. 

The 45th District includes Encino, Northridge, Reseda, Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Calabasas and Winnetka.

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