One of these two Democrats will be L.A.’s next member of Congress. Here’s what you need to know for the election

Yes, Los Angeles already had a congressional election this year, and yes, it’s about to have another. With a super-crowded field competing in the April primary to represent the 34th Congressional District in central L.A., we’re now down to just two candidates.

As the campaign wraps up, here’s what you need to know:

The contenders

In the primary election, voters whittled down a field of 24 candidates to the top two vote-getters: Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, 42; and former L.A. city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, 41. Both are Democrats.

Neither of them received anywhere near 50% of votes in the last round, so they have to face each other in a runoff election.

On the other hand, less than 10% of Ahn’s donations have come from outside California. But contributors from the wealthy enclaves of Beverly Hills, La Cañada Flintridge and the Palos Verdes Peninsula have helped Ahn make up the difference, as has the $490,000 he’s lent himself.

Where do they fall on the political spectrum?

Gomez is regarded as a reliably progressive vote in the Legislature and has received perfect legislative scores in the Assembly from groups such as Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters and Equality California. He often touts his work expanding California’s paid family leave law and his votes to increase the minimum wage.

In an L.A. Times questionnaire sent to candidates in the primary, Gomez said he would fight to save the Affordable Care Act and push for a single-payer healthcare system, and would oppose using taxpayer funds to build a border wall while pushing to make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals a permanent policy.

Ahn, who was a Republican until switching parties in 2012, has promised to bring a “business sensibility” to the office if elected and appears to be taking a more centrist approach. He calls himself a progressive who can also be pragmatic, saying in the questionnaire that Democrats should negotiate with Republicans on healthcare and immigration policy. He said he would fight any immigration policy that would include “breaking families apart” as part of immigration reform.

Gomez has criticized Ahn for suggesting he would negotiate with Republicans to protect parts of Obamacare. In a recent debate, Gomez said Democrats need to take a “hard line” and that Ahn was too soft on support for Medicaid. But Ahn maintained that “we’re going to have to talk to the other side.”

Ahn has also criticized Gomez for taking special interest money, suggesting it would be “payback time” for his donors if Gomez is elected to Congress.

How much is all this costing?

The estimated cost of the April 4 primary alone was about $1.3 million, according to L.A. County election officials and the June runoff is expected to cost another $1.3 million.

The 24 candidates in the primary spent at least $2.9 million collectively, or an average of about $67.97 per vote.

The full taxpayer cost of both elections won’t be known for months.

For more on California politics, follow @cmaiduc.


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June 2, 2:10 p.m. This article was updated with additional campaign finance data and other information.

April 20, 5:18 p.m.: This article was updated with the latest estimated taxpayer cost of both elections.

This article was originally published April 19.

An earlier version of this story misstated the average amount of money spent per vote as $86.74.

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