Opinion: L.A. voters didn’t just turn their backs on Berniecrat progressivism, they went positively Clintonesque

California State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a candidate for the 34th Congressional District seat, hugs a supporter at election night headquarters in Highland Park.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Whoa, what just happened to the progressive Democrat movement in Los Angeles? Voters in the 34th Congressional District not only rejected the Berniecrats in the special election to replace Xavier Becerra on Tuesday, they veered decidedly Clintonesque.

Two Democrats, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and attorney and former city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, took a commanding lead in the initial returns — 28% and 19%, respectively. Though provisional votes are still being counted, their lead is broad enough that it seems unlikely the results will flip in the final tally.

Gomez and Ahn are moderate compared to many of the other Democrats in the race, though still raging liberals next to the Republicans in power in D.C. Gomez endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the primary. He’s also the Democratic Party favorite. Ahn touted his “business sensibility” in the campaign.


Arturo Carmona, a former staffer in the Sanders campaign, Wendy Carrillo, a Sanders supporter, and Kenneth Mejia, the Green Party candidate, must be a little surprised they did so poorly — collectively not quite 15%. The 34th District, which includes neighborhoods in northeast Los Angeles, east Los Angeles and downtown, voted for Bernie Sanders in the June presidential race. It was one of just a handful of districts to do so in California.

What happened? Did voters change their minds about single-payer healthcare and the corrupting influence of money in politics? Or did progressives stay home, not able to work up the same enthusiasm since last year’s defeat? It seems possible, since turnout so far was less than 10%. Would it have made a difference if Bernie himself had stumped for one of the candidates?

Or was this a case of party loyalty and money trumping all other factors? Ahn and Gomez raised the most money — more than half a million in total — and prevailed.

We may never know for certain why progressivism faltered in this particular race, but it would be rash to pronounce the death knell for the movement at large based on this one, particularly low-turnout race.

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