They are two sons of immigrants with working class roots, who shared similar ideas on health care, immigration, and resistance to President Donald Trump. Both are Democrats.
Jimmy Gomez, Latino, versus Robert Lee Ahn, Korean American, in the 34th Congressional District race in California.
Gomez ended up winning the special election on June 6 in the heavily Democratic district that runs through downtown Los Angeles, and it did not change the balance of power in Congress. The seat was held for years by Xavier Becerra, another Democrat who stepped down after being appointed California state attorney general.
Ahn, 41, the son of Korean immigrants, emerged as a favorite in the district’s bustling Koreatown neighborhood. If he had won, Ahn would have become the second Korean American elected to the House and the first Korean American Democrat.
Koreans have not had one of their own in the U.S. House since the late 1990s.
Two years ago, David Ryu became the first Korean American to hold a City Council seat in Los Angeles. Steven Choi, who was born in South Korea, was elected to the state Assembly in 2016.
Data provided by Political Data Inc. showed Korean Americans, who make up just 6 percent of the district’s voters, made up more than a quarter of votes cast.
The election of Gomez, 42, the son of Mexican immigrants, continues a decades-old tradition of Democratic Latino representation in the district, where half the voters are Latino, compared with a relative sliver of Asian voters.
Gomez emphasized his legislative know-how and broad support within the party ranks and from organized labor. Ahn, a lawyer and former Los Angeles planning commissioner, embraced the role of an outsider who wants to shake up politics as usual.
The result may feel like a letdown for many of the district’s estimated 17,000 Korean American voters, who responded to Ahn’s call to become more civically engaged following the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots that left them feeling voiceless.
Politics is still dominated by old, white men.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 2 percent of the American public has run for some kind of political office.
Men, despite being a slight minority of the U.S. population, comprise about three-quarters of all candidates. And while whites are two thirds of the population, they are 82 percent of all candidates for office.
While both political parties need to do a better job of recruiting and supporting more diverse candidates, individuals themselves must step up and take on this role.
You can’t win if you don’t run. And the 34th Congressional District race clearly highlights the possibilities.