The special election seeks to fill the vacant seat in CA’s Assembly District 51
On Tuesday, October 3, Angelenos from a handful of communities on the northeast side of Los Angeles will head to the polls to vote for a new representative in the State Assembly.
The special election was announced after former State Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez of Assembly District 51 (AD 51) was elected to the United States Congress in June.
AD 51 comprises an ethnically and culturally diverse electorate, which includes the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Edendale, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Silver Lake, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Monterey Hills. Parts of East Los Angeles and City Terrace are also housed in AD51.
Demographically, Latino voters dominate AD51 with 57.1 percent of the population, but the district boasts a rich Asian American electorate with 11 percent. Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American group with more than 10,000 living in the district.
Additionally, Fil-Am voters have the power to shift the election since they come out at about 19 percent voter turnout; in comparison, Latino voters only average a 12 percent voter turnout.
There are currently 13 candidates running for the vacant seat. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates that received the most votes will face off in a run-off election in December.
For voters unfamiliar with the candidates, here’s a list of candidates running for AD 51.
Andrew Aguero, Libertarian
A student and construction worker, Aguero’s key campaign issue is lowering taxes. Speaking at a candidates forum in early September, the young candidate said he supports improving public schools and he is against affirmative action. He is the son Peruvian immigrants and is running for AD 51 to combat Establishment politics and “career politicians.”
Dr. Ron Birnbaum, Democrat
Dr. Birnbaum is a second-generation Argentinean-American who works as a physician in Los Angeles. A staunch supporter of health care reform, Dr. Birnbaum’s key campaign promise is to advocate for single-payer health care. If elected, he vows to support SB-562, the state’s single-payer bill in which the state would cover all healthcare costs, including copays and out-of-pocket expenses. Dr. Birnbaum has been endorsed by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, CA Nurses Association and State Senator Josh Newman among others.
Wendy Carrillo, Democrat
A long-time community advocate based in Boyle Heights, Carrillo is a journalist and former host of “Knowledge is Power” on Power 106. Carrillo is a Mexican-American immigrant who was formerly undocumented; she considers herself a champion for quality education, affordable health care and workers’ rights. Carrillo has been endorsed by the CA Democratic Legislative Women’s Caucus, Emily’s List and CA Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia, Connie Leyva and Nancy Skinner among others.
Alex De Ocampo, Democrat
Second-generation Filipino-American De Ocampo grew up in and around Historic Filipinotown and was a charitable foundation adviser, helping establish youth programs in LA. Vowing to be an active progressive voice in the Assembly, his key issues include providing quality child care, health care, paid family leave and promises to increase job creation. He has been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Brad Sherman and Kyrsten Sinema, LA City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Bob Blumenfield, Equality California, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma and CA Assemblymembers Matt Dababneh and Rob Bonta, among others.
Mike Fong, Democrat
Fong, an LA Community College district board trustee, vows to primarily focus on improving the quality of public education and workforce training in the district. He also serves as Director of Policy and Government Relations for the City of LA’s Dept. of Neighborhood Empowerment, where he collaborates with community leaders on policy development and government relations. Fong has been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Judy Chu and Ted Lieu, CA State Treasurer John Chiang and LA City Councilmembers Paul Koretz, Curren Price and David Ryu among others.
Patrick Koppula, no party affiliation
In 2016, Koppula served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow for the Obama administration where he worked to ignite voter participation and government innovation. The first generation immigrant promises to focus on quality education, environmental justice, health care for all and affordable housing.
Luis Lopez, Democrat
The progressive Lopez served as a board member of Planned Parenthood – LA for 7 years and has devoted his political career to expand access to quality and affordable health care, with a particular focus on women’s reproductive rights. He also plans to fight for affordable housing and improving the city’s transportation system. Lopez has been endorsed by CA State Controller Betty Yee, LA City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, Planned Parenthood – LA and the Sierra Club among others.
Mario Olmos, Democrat
Founder of the Your Voice Matters organization, Olmos’s platform solely focuses on ending sexual abuse of children. Through his organization, he aims to bring awareness to juvenile sexual abuse through an “education first” approach. Other key issues in his platform include providing access to higher education and uplifting the district’s senior community.
John Prysner, Peace and Freedom Party
Prysner is currently a warehouse operations coordinator and the only socialist running in this election. As state assemblymember, he promises to combat rising rents and provide more affordable housing, reducing police brutality and uplifting communities of color.
Gabriel Sandoval, Democrat
Boasting a career as a civil rights and education law attorney, the Cypress Park native has worked for former President Barack Obama for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the Office for Civil Rights with the Education Department. If elected, he plans to be a champion for fair wages, environmental protection, quality education and uplifting small businesses. Sandoval has been endorsed by former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and former U.S. Ambassador Carlos Moreno among others.
Barbara Torres, Democrat
Torres is an advocate for workers’ unions. Her campaign stances are unknown as Torres currently does not have a campaign website or contact info.
Mark Vargas, Democrat
Vargas’s political career dates back to the administration of former California Governor Gray Davis, with whom he worked as a special assistant, supporting environmental interests in the state. He now works as a social investor in projects in Latin America and the U.S. His key campaign issues include providing quality public education and generating job growth.
David Vela, Democrat
A professor at East LA college, Vela has worked with the State Assembly during former Gov. Gray Davis’s term as Senior Advisor to the Employment Development Department. He currently serves as Senior VP at Lee Andrews Group, a public outreach firm in LA. His progressive platform focuses on economic justice, workers’ rights, quality education, universal health care and safeguarding the immigrant community. Vela has been endorsed by LA City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, CA State Senator Ricardo Lara, Equality California and former State Assemblymember Mike Eng among others. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)