LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former city planner Robert Lee Ahn and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, both Democrats with immigrant parents, emerged Tuesday from a crowded field to lead the race for an open congressional seat from Los Angeles.
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.
With 27 percent of the vote, Gomez late Tuesday night passed former city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, who now has 25 percent of the vote.
Gomez, considered the front runner coming into the primary, leads Ahn, who led the field in fundraising, by about 200 votes with about 15,000 votes counted. Gomez and Ahn are far ahead of the other 21 candidates in the race, and are looking very likely to face each other again in a runoff in June.
If no candidate gets a majority of Tuesday’s votes, the top two finishers advance to a runoff election in June.
Ahn, 41, is an attorney who until February was a Los Angeles city planning commissioner appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Gomez, 42, who represents the same area in the Assembly, had the backing of much of the Democratic establishment.
Both candidates are the sons of immigrants. Ahn’s parents are from South Korea and Gomez’s are from Mexico.
It is the first congressional primary since President Donald 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. County election officials said a sample from 15 precincts in the district mostly within the city of Los Angeles showed turnout was in the single digits. Vote-by-mail ballots also lagged.
In some aspects, the contest was a continuation of last year’s Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Several candidates pointed to the Vermont senator as an inspiration, and they echoed his agenda from last year, calling for closing the wealth gap and establishing health care for all.
Trump was a frequent target for many candidates.
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