Because there was no doubt the Democratic Party was going to hold onto the 34th congressional district of California, the contest to replace California attorney general Xavier Becerra has not received even a small fraction of the national attention garnered by special elections in Kansas, Montana, and Georgia. But a small number of Los Angeles voters dutifully mailed in ballots or went to the polls yesterday, and awarded state legislator Jimmy Gomez with a seat in Congress after an impressively strong challenge from political newcomer Robert Lee Ahn.
In the second stage of California’s top-two system, Gomez defeated Ahn by a comfortable 60–40 margin. But there was some uncertainty early in the vote tallying, which showed a dead heat that reflected Ahn’s strategy of banking mail ballots from his fellow Korean-Americans, who represent only 6 percent of CA-34’s population (compared to the 66 percent represented by Latinos like Gomez) but made up an estimated one-fourth of by-mail early voters.
Gomez not only enjoyed an ethnic advantage, he was endorsed by a who’s who of California Democrats, from Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi on down. The low-profile nature of the race was enhanced by both campaigns’ decisions to spend their money on get-out-the-vote measures rather than ads. There were few issues dividing the candidates — who emerged from a pack of 24 contestants in the first round of the special election back in April— though Ahn did try to get an “outsider” vibe going, which makes sense given Gomez’s massive Establishment backing. In the end Gomez just had too many friends, in and out of the district, to lose.