There’s a congressional election in L.A. Tuesday. Here’s all you need to know and why it matters
The election for the 34th Congressional District is Tuesday, and 24 candidates are vying to fill the vacancy in the central Los Angeles district. Here’s what you should know if you’re one of the 305,000 voters in the district, and why you should care if you aren’t.
There’s another election happening? What? Where? Why? How?
Yes, we know Los Angeles just got through with an election March 7, but that was for L.A. mayor, City Council and county measures.
This election is about electing a new member of Congress for L.A.’s 34th District, which stretches from Koreatown and Westlake, through downtown, Chinatown and parts of East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Highland Park and Eagle Rock.
There’s hasn’t been a member of Congress representing those neighborhoods since Feb. 1, when Xavier Becerra resigned to be sworn in as California’s attorney general.
It’s the first congressional election since Donald Trump was elected president, so it’s been getting a lot of national attention.
Though Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Becerra for the post back in December, the fact that he didn’t step down until he was confirmed by the state Legislature made it hard to consolidate the special election with the already scheduled March races.
The two dozen hopefuls are wrangling for a spot among the top two finishers, hoping to get into a likely runoff election June 6. If any candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, no runoff will be held, but with so many competing, the chances of that happening are low.
So who’s running?
Most of the candidates have never run for political office before. There’s a union organizer, a former journalist a rocket scientist and a film producer in the running. There’s also a state assemblyman, a county prosecutor and a slew of local activists and community leaders.
Here’s a rundown of the long list of candidates who are running.
What do they think about the top issues?
All but four of the candidates are Democrats. Even though most of them are basically in agreement about some of the biggest challenges facing the district, their approach to the issues differs significantly. And there are also a Republican, a Libertarian, a Green Party member and an independent in the mix.
To help you sift through some of their policy stands, we asked the candidates to give us their views in 100 words or less on six top issues.
More on the issues:
Immigration issues matter a lot to voters and to the candidates
With Trump in the White House and potential battles brewing over issues like sanctuary cities, most of the candidates have vowed to fight the president on immigration issues if elected.
One poll suggested immigration is one of the top priorities among likely voters, and half of the candidates in the race are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.
A lot of women are running
Thirteen of the 24 candidates in this race are women, and eight are Latinas. Many of them have years of experience as community organizers, media personalities and activists.
Several of the candidates participated in the women’s marches in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
When asked at a recent candidate forum to describe themselves in one word, the women running in the 34th District chose words such as “relentless,” “strong” and “badass.”
More on some the women who are running:
Many see this as a contest between establishment Democrats and the Bernie Sanders progressive wing of the party
This is one of the few districts in California that voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential primary.
Three candidates, Wendy Carrillo, Kenneth Mejia and former Sanders campaign aide Arturo Carmona, are competing for votes from the most progressive wing of the party. Sanders hasn’t thrown his support to any candidate.
State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez is considered by most to be the establishment candidate. He’s raised the most money, a lot of it from powerful political action committees.
This is considered a safe Democratic seat, so as the intraparty battle plays out in this first-in-the-nation special election, it could hold clues as to where Democratic Party politics are headed in the future.
Most of the campaign money has gone to just five candidates
Even though there’s more than 20 candidates in the race, three quarters of the money raised has gone to five campaigns, according to a Times analysis of FEC filings.
More than 80% of the campaign cash in the contest came from outside the 34th District, where the median household income is $35,181.
Small donors have also played a big role for some of the candidates.
More on the money:
The outcome depends heavily on turnout
Predictions about how many voters will actually turn out have been all over the map. Some say it could be as low as 9%, while others think it will be closer to the 20% turnout of L.A.’s city elections.
Either way, this special election isn’t likely to get the kind of widespread participation we usually see in presidential years, so the unusually large number of candidates are fighting for a relatively small number of votes. That means this race is a battle to get a candidate’s closest friends and supporters to show up at the polls.
There are signs Korean American candidate Robert Lee Ahn has already been particularly successful at that — a recent analysis showed nearly a quarter of the mail-in ballots turned in for the race so far were cast by Korean American voters.
Who’s backing who?
State Assemblyman Gomez, who represents about half the voters in the 34th District, has the backing of the California Democratic Party and dozens of elected officials, including Becerra and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
This isn’t necessarily a totally positive thing for Gomez, who has had to fight against the idea that he’s been “anointed” by Democratic Party insiders.
This race is still wide open and other endorsements might play a big role, too. Maria Cabildo was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times editorial board, while Yolie Flores got the backing of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. Gomez has received support from most of the major labor unions involved in L.A. politics and from environmental groups and Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm.
The L.A. County Young Democrats backed Sara Hernandez, while Carmona received support from National Nurses United and the California Nurses Assn., which were big Sanders backers, and dozens of other volunteers and staff members from the Sanders campaign.
How and where do I vote?
If you’re voting in person on Tuesday, you can find your polling place here. If you’re voting by mail, remember that your ballot will be counted as long as it’s postmarked by April 4 and is received by election officials by April 7. You can also drop your mail-in ballot off at any polling place.
And if you’re a Korean-speaking voter or you know someone in this district who receives their voting materials in Korean, double-check your sample ballot. There was an error on some Korean language ballots that could cause you to vote for the wrong person inadvertently.
Where do I find out who won?
We’ll be tracking election results and election day happenings live and you can follow along at latimes.com/essentialpolitics.
For more on California politics, follow @cmaiduc.
April 3, 9:25 a.m.: Updated with current information about voting.
This article was originally published on March 31.
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