By Jim Ellis
April 4, 2017 — The first of five federal special elections is underway today in Los Angeles, as voters in California’s 34th Congressional District begin the process of electing a replacement for ex-Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), who is now the state Attorney General.
No less than 23 candidates are vying for the office, 19 of them Democrats. This is not particularly surprising considering the 34th gave only 11% of its votes to President Trump. A low turnout is expected, because this district historically has one of the smallest voter participation factors in the state.
A turnout well below 20 percent for today’s jungle primary is expected, meaning a likely total of approximately 60,000 voters, and probably considerably fewer. The state scheduled March 6 to begin the early voting period, and ballots, if they are postmarked no later than today, will be counted if received at the County Election Office on or before April 7. The primary election results must be certified on or before April 13.
All 23 candidates will appear on the same ballot. The top two finishers, assuming no one breaks the 50 percent threshold, will advance to the special general election on June 6. The favorite is state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) who is the Los Angeles Democratic establishment’s candidate, as well as attracting key backing from the area labor union locals. Who advances with him is open to question. The sheer number of candidates makes it unlikely that Gomez can reach the majority figure, but him not finishing first would be considered a major upset.
Former Los Angeles City Council aide Sara Hernandez and ex-Obama White House aide Alejandra Campoverdi (D) are active fundraisers who have accessed media with targeted electronic and digital ads. Bernie Sanders campaign staff member Arturo Carmona (D) was also thought to be a major candidate, but recent sexism charges during his time on the presidential campaign has caused him to lose key liberal endorsements.
But the candidate with the most resources, due to a loan of more than $300,000 from his personal finances, is Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D). All of the other major contenders, including Gomez, are only around the $300,000 mark in campaign receipts, while Ahn breaks $600,000.
Today’s election will almost assuredly send two Democrats to the run-off. Republicans have only one candidate on the ballot, apartment building manager William Rodriguez Morrison, who has zero resources with which to compete. The Republican label will allow him to gain some votes, but certainly not enough for him to plow through the large field of Democratic contenders.
The 34th District contains downtown Los Angeles, and the Koreatown, Boyle Heights, Montecito Heights, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock communities. It also houses Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center, the latter being home to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and LA Kings professional hockey franchise.