On Tuesday, Jimmy Gomez (D) defeated Robert Lee Ahn (D) in a runoff election for the recently-vacated House of Representatives seat for the 34th Congressional District, with Gomez receiving 60.1% of the vote to Ahn’s 39.9%.
Both Gomez and Ahn had come out on top of a wide field of twenty-three candidates vying for the seat during the primary election held in April. Ahn’s success during the primary, in large part due to rallying the Korean community, came as a surprise to outside observers, who had expected Gomez to outright win during the primary.
The 34th Congressional District covers a significant portion of central Los Angeles, including both downtown Los Angeles and Koreatown. Demographically, the district skews heavily Latino, with some 64% of the district identifying as such. Politically, the 34th is one of the bluest districts in the country, with only 9% of voters
Both candidates ran campaigns divided along ethnic lines, making for a difficult uphill battle for Ahn.
Gomez, a former state assemblyman endorsed by heavyweights of the state Democratic establishment, focused his efforts on the mainly Latino east side of the district, while virtually not campaigning in areas like Koreatown.
On the other hand, Ahn, an attorney and former Republican, emphasized not only that he was a political outsider but also the fact that, were he to be elected, he would be only the second Korean-American ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. The only Korean-American to have served in the U.S. Congress is Jay Kim, who was a House Representative twenty years ago.
Ahn garnered a lot of criticism over his campaign’s use of deceptive, manipulative mail tactics. Seeing letters emblazoned with official-looking terms such as “jury duty” and “new polling information,” voters would open these letters, only to find that they were actually campaign advertisements for Ahn.
Ahn conceded on Tuesday evening, thanking the Korean community for supporting his campaign.
By T. Kim