LOS ANGELES – A Southern California legislator backed by the Democratic establishment and supporters of Bernie Sanders won an open U.S. House seat Tuesday.
State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez on Tuesday defeated rival Robert Lee Ahn to claim the seat in the 34th Congressional District, which runs through downtown Los Angeles.
Gomez won 60 percent of the 33,000 votes counted.
Ahn, 41, a lawyer and son of Korean immigrants, was trying to become the first Korean-American in the U.S. House in nearly two decades and his candidacy energized the community in the city’s Koreatown neighborhood.
But the Harvard-educated Gomez, 42, the son of Mexican immigrants, was the pick of Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s Democratic leadership in a district where half the voters are Latino. He was also backed by influential labor unions and a political group inspired by Sanders and his 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.
The two Democrats emerged closely matched from a crowded April primary that sent the top two vote-getters to the general election, regardless of party. Gomez snagged 25 percent of the votes, with Ahn at 22 percent.
As Democrats, the two candidates share similar ideas on health care, immigration and resistance to President Donald Trump.
Gomez emphasized his legislative know-how and broad support within the party ranks and from organized labor. Ahn, a former Los Angeles planning commissioner, embraced the role of an outsider who wanted to shake up politics as usual.
Gomez was a more familiar name to voters — his state Assembly district overlaps with parts of the congressional district, which sits mostly within the boundaries of Los Angeles.
The district boundaries are almost completely within the city of Los Angeles, and voters lived up to their reputation for mostly ignoring local elections. In a district with more than 300,000 voters, the unofficial tally pointed to an embarrassingly low turnout.
Republicans account for less than 10 percent of voters.
Ahn was trying to become part of what could be described as a political breakout for Koreans, who have not had one of their own in the U.S. House since the late 1990s.
Two years ago, David Ryu became the first Korean-American to hold a City Council seat in Los Angeles. Steven Choi, who was born in South Korea, was elected to the state Assembly in 2016.
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