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2018 electionCalifornia Legislature

With Jimmy Gomez headed to Congress, another special election is on the way to fill his Assembly seat in Sacramento

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), right, was elected to Congress on Tuesday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), right, was elected to Congress on Tuesday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Voters in a handful of Los Angeles communities will face as many as two more elections before the end of the year, after choosing a sitting member of the state Assembly on Tuesday to fill a vacant seat in Congress.

The victory of Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) in a special election for the 34th Congressional District seat means that Gomez, once the election results are certified, will have to resign his seat in the Legislature.

At that point, Gov. Jerry Brown is required to call a special election to fill Gomez's current job representing the state's 51st Assembly District, which includes Echo Park, Eagle Rock and parts of East Los Angeles. State law gives Brown some flexibility in the timing of the election, though voters will be called on to cast ballots before the end of 2017. If any candidate wins a majority in that vote, he or she will replace Gomez and there will be only one election to fill the seat. If not, as was the case in the race to replace Xavier Becerra in Congress -- won by Gomez on Tuesday -- when Becerra became state attorney general, there will also be a runoff between the two candidates who receive the most votes.

Special elections have become increasingly common in California, largely the result of incumbent elected officials seeking new jobs before their terms in their current offices expires. An estimate provided earlier this year found that the congressional election that ended Tuesday night would end up costing Los Angeles taxpayers some $1.3 million.

State records show that there have been more than 50 special elections in California over the past decade. Over the last seven years, the cost of special elections in Los Angeles alone has been $22.7 million.

Federal law requires an election for a vacancy in the House of Representatives, but proposals have been made in Sacramento to allow legislative vacancies to be filled by the governor. Those efforts have all fizzled, often opposed by legislators who themselves won their seats in a special election.

A half-dozen candidates have already opened campaign committees for the Assembly seat that will soon be vacated by Gomez. The winner of the eventual election will serve out the remainder of the current term, through the end of 2018, and would have to run again in the statewide primary next June for an additional two-year term.

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