Capitol Alert

Election Day in L.A.: More than a dozen vie to be the next Jimmy Gomez

rpench@sacbee.com

It’s Election Day in Los Angeles, where 13 candidates will square off in the special primary election to fill the 51st Assembly District vacancy created by the election to Congress earlier this year of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles.

With so many candidates, including several with active campaigns, it’s all but certain that no one will win the race outright today. The top two finishers will advance to the special general election Dec. 5 if no one receives 50 percent of the vote plus one.

Democrats expect the eventual winner to bring the party back to 55 seats in the 80-member Assembly, restoring the caucus’ one-seat cushion for the two-thirds supermajority achieved last fall. Of the candidates, 10 are registered Democrats, one is a Libertarian, one is Peace and Freedom, and the other has no party preference. Only the Democrats have raised any significant money, according to electronic disclosure reports.

Encompassing much of East Los Angeles, the 51st includes the neighborhoods of Echo Park, Eagle Rock and Silver Lake. Democrats make up almost 61 percent of registered voters, making it the sixth-most Democratic Assembly district. Only 9 percent of voters are registered Republicans, barely a third of the 26 percent of voters with no-party preference.

About one-quarter of AD-51 residents live in poverty, among the highest in the state.

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Independent groups bankrolled by unions, business and tribes with casinos have spent more than $440,000 in the weeks leading up to today’s election.

Democrat Wendy Carrillo, a community advocate, has been the biggest beneficiary. Working Families for Wendy Carrillo, which has received much of its money from SEIU-linked groups, has reported spending $332,000 on workers going door-to-door, polling, mailers, digital ads and text messages to voters.

Democrat David Vela, a college professor, has received $65,000 in mailers from three tribes with casinos: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians.

Keep California Golden, a business-backed group, has spent almost $40,000 to help Democrat Mark Vargas. And the California Nurses Association reported spending $4,500 on online advertising to help Democrat Ron Birnbaum, a doctor.

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WORTH REPEATING: “The police say the shooter appeared to have acted alone. That’s not true. Every gun lobbyist and the politicians who do their bidding were all in that room with him.”

– California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500 on Sunday night

AND THE WINNER IS: State scientist David Miller will find out today if the fifth time is the charm in his quest to win a seat on the 13-member board that oversees the state’s largest public pension fund.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System on Tuesday is counting mail-in and electronic ballots for its just-concluded general election. Two seats are up for grabs with Miller competing against former CalPERS board member Michael Flaherman for one.

In the other race, incumbent Michael Bilbrey faces challenges from retired legislative staff member Bruce Jennings, Garden Grove school district business services manager Margaret Brown and retired Redondo Beach engineer Wisam Altowaiji.

CalPERS invited the candidates to watch it count ballots at a La Jolla office after Brown and Flaherman complained that its election format violated state law by compelling voters to sign non-secret ballots and connecting information to the internet.

Their dispute stems in part from the pension fund’s decision to invite people to vote by phone or online. CalPERS’ efforts to ensure that people did not cast multiple ballots led it to create security checks that included having voters offer identifying information on their ballots.

Unions backed Miller and Bilbrey. Miller raised almost $100,000 from unions of his campaign, while Bilbrey pulled in about $57,000.

WHITE SUPREMACY: Following a deadly rally in Charlottesville earlier this year, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced a series of public hearings to investigate a rise of white supremacy in California. The first hearing, titled “Combating Hate While Protecting the Constitution,” begins at 9 a.m. today in room 112 of the Capitol. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will oversee the hearing. Representatives from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, the Anti-Defamation League, Equality California, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and several law enforcement groups will provide testimony on hate groups that operate in the state, the impact on communities and the best way to deal with white supremacist organizations in the real world.

UNITING CALIFORNIA: Billionaire environmentalist and Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer may be opening up his wallet again to back liberal California candidates, this time focusing his attention on key congressional districts in the 2018 midterm elections. Steyer, the California Labor Federation and community groups will brief reporters on “a new on-the-ground organizing effort” at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

TAX CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers touted the expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit through the budget earlier this year as a means to help bring people out of poverty. By lowering the income threshold to $22,300, officials expect to more than double the number of eligible families to 1.7 million households. At 10 a.m. today, Joseph Sanberg, a high-profile proponent of the state earned income tax credit who spent millions of his own money to get the program off the ground, is announcing a pilot with the Compton Unified School District to help families take advantage of the credit. Sanberg earned a speaking role at the California Democratic Party’s convention last spring and has been discussed as a future candidate for statewide office. Brown and advocates have been trying to raise awareness about the program since it started in the 2015 tax year.

Adam Ashton of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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