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Winner to Go to Washington at a Tense Time

The primary last month to choose the next Congressmember for District 34 (including Northeast Los Angeles), shrank the field from 23 candidates to two: Jimmy Gomez, currently the State Assemblymember for NELA and Robert Lee Ahn, a businessman, lawyer and formerly a Planning Commissioner with the City of Los Angeles. One more election, on Tues., June 6, will determine the winner. A few things, however, are already known. For example:

The area’s next representative will be a man.
Twelve of the 23 primary candidates were women, but only the top two vote getters – Mr. Gomez, with 25% of the vote, and Mr. Ahn, with 22% – get to compete in the final. Among the female candidates, Maria Cabildo came in third with 10% of the vote, followed by Sara Hernandez in fourth place, with nearly 6%.

The winner will be the child of immigrants.
Mr. Gomez’s parents came to the United States from Mexico. Mr. Ahn’s parents came from South Korea.

The winner will be a Democrat.
The top six candidates in the congressional primary were all Democrats. The top vote getters among non-Democrats were Kenneth Mejia, the sole Green Party candidate, who took seventh place, and William Morrison, the sole Republican, who took eighth place.

Money mattered.
Campaign financing reports required by the Federal Elections Commission show that as of Mar. 31, just ahead of the Apr. 4 primary, Mr. Ahn had raised the most money – over $821,847. Mr. Gomez was second in terms of fundraising at $635,252.

Price per vote.
Spending by Mr. Ahn through Mar. 31 was $767,415, and he received 9,415 votes – or $81.50 per vote. Mr. Gomez spent $447,412 – or $41.71 per vote.

Up Close and Personal
In April, the Boulevard Sentinel sent each of the candidates the same seven questions. Here are their answers:


Mr. Jimmy Gomez

Q: If elected to Congress, what would be your top national priority?
My top priority is fighting the Trump Agenda. It is not enough to merely say “no” to the harmful and divisive policies coming out of the White House. With my experience as an organizer and legislator, I know that it’s not just about giving speeches. You have to fight back using the rule of law, transparency, accountability and the power of collective action. That is why I believe I am the best prepared to hit the ground running on day one – to expose the flagrantly unconstitutional actions of this Administration with respect to immigration and the undermining of our civil liberties, and the rolling back of key environmental protections. I also understand that we cannot compromise our values or the policies that Americans depend on.

Q: If elected to Congress, what would be your top priority for California District 34?
Health Care – The threat of repealing the Affordable Care Act (or parts of it) is the biggest threat facing our district. While Donald Trump and the Republicans failed at their first attempt at repeal, I take them at their word that they will try again. No district in the country has benefitted from the Affordable Care Act as much as California’s 34th. I will be a strong opponent to any attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and a vocal advocate for increasing the benefits to the families of the 34th district. When we stood together against the Republicans’ attempt to roll back the Affordable Care Act, we won and showed the power of collective action, of people speaking with one voice.

Q: Ideally, what would be your top choice for a committee assignment in Congress?
My top choice would be to serve on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the House Homeland Security Committee because they both have a great impact on my constituents. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce addresses efforts to improve education, health care and workplace conditions. The Homeland Security Committee deals with immigration reform and protecting our civil liberties. Q: What did you learn during the primary that you didn’t know before – -about voters in the district, their concerns, attitudes, engagement, etc? I have represented 50% of the 34th Congressional District in the State Assembly through my work for the 51st Assembly District, doing over 90 community events and town halls in the last four years. During the course of the campaign, I have gotten to know the communities not in my assembly district and I was struck by the common issues and concerns that working families have across the region. They want a good education for their kids so they can have a better life, clean air and water, they want quality affordable health care, good jobs with a livable wage, to know that they and their parents will be taken care in their retirement and the security of knowing that they and their neighbors are safe and their rights protected. Q: Which thinkers have had the most influence on your political beliefs and why? My political beliefs are based on my personal experiences growing up; not having health insurance, watching my parents work three to four jobs to make ends meet, and attending community college. That’s why we need to make our policies and programs work for everyone at every rung of the economic ladder. My support for universal health care, a livable wage, and affordable debt-free college reflects these experiences and my desire to see others have access to the opportunities I have had. Q: Which politicians do you consider models for your professional political life and why? I have always admired President Barack Obama for his ability to listen to others and find common ground to solve community problems. Some of the elected officials I have worked under, such as Hilda Solis [currently the Los Angeles County Supervisor for NELA, former Congressmember and Secretary of Labor in the Obama adminitration] and Mike Feuer, [currently the Los Angeles City Attorney, formerly a State Assemblymember] have taught me a great deal about listening to your constituents and standing up for what you believe in. Q: Please tell us about one or two opportunities that opened up for you in your life that turned out to be important in the development of who you are today. I hurt my back when I was working in a Target warehouse after graduating high school. Not having health insurance made me realize that not only did I need a job with benefits, but that I needed to change my life. So I decided to go to community college. In community college, I attended a workshop on political activism. That is where I first heard about the power of collective action and how one person could make a difference. It also inspired me to run for president of the honor society and started my interest in public service. I ended up changing my major from biochemistry to political science. One year later, I would transfer to UCLA. Mr. Robert Lee Ahn: Q: If elected to Congress, what would be your top national priority? Defend and improve the Affordable Care Act to ensure that everyone in this country has access to affordable and quality healthcare. It is essential that Democrats protect critical portions of the existing law, including: Low income families and individuals must have access to affordable, quality health care; People with pre-existing conditions must have access to affordable, quality healthcare; Young adults must remain on a parent’s plan until age 26. Any threat to Medicaid is unacceptable. We must stand firm to protect the most vulnerable among us. We cannot deny millions of people the ability to receive quality and affordable medical care. Q: If elected to Congress, what would be your top priority for California District 34? Homelessness, particularly with respect to our veterans and mental health services. Q: Ideally, what would be your top choice for a committee assignment in Congress? Foreign Affairs or Veterans Affairs Q: What did you learn during the primary that you didn’t know before – about voters in the district, their concerns, attitudes, engagement, etc? Throughout the course of the primary, it was clear that people do care, however they are not engaged for a number of reasons. People believe that their voices are not heard and that their elected officials are increasingly disconnected from their needs and challenges. In short, the voters of the district feel disenchanted and do not feel properly represented. Many have said that the only time our public officials listen is when it’s time to for re-election. Q: Which thinkers have had the most influence on your political beliefs and why? Senator Bernie Sanders. He proved that you don’t have to be beholden to special interests to have your voice heard. He showed that you can be an independent voice and stand for your principles, regardless of whether they are popular or not. Q: Which politicians do you consider models for your professional political life and why? Congressman Ted Lieu. You can see how effective he is at fighting against the Trump administration’s policies and inflammatory rhetoric, even though he is a junior member of Congress. He has been able to shape national conversations and promote a progressive platform in the process. Q: Please tell us about one or two opportunities that opened up for you in your life that turned out to be important in the development of who you are today. My parents immigrated here from Korea before I was born. Through hard work and because of their immense personal sacrifices, my sister and I were able to find success and we were able to find our family’s piece of the American Dream. America is not only the land of opportunity, but is also the land of opportunity and freedom. I suffered a medical emergency when I was 34 years old, at a time when I was in between jobs and without health insurance. Through that experience, I not only had a second chance at life, but gained a first-hand understanding of the struggle and horrors that millions of Americans face when they don’t have access to affordable healthcare.

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