Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Political Notebook: Gay man makes LA Assembly runoff


Luis Lopez. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Two progressive Latino candidates, one a gay man and one a straight woman, will faceoff in December for a Los Angeles area Assembly seat.

Luis Lopez, making his second bid for the 51st Assembly District seat, and Wendy Carrillo, who earlier this year had run in a special election for Congress, survived Tuesday's special primary election to advance to the December 5 runoff.

The Assembly seat became vacant after former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) won election to the state's 34th Congressional District seat in June. He succeeded Xavier Becerra, who was appointed the state's attorney general earlier this year by Governor Jerry Brown due to the election last fall of Kamala Harris as California's junior U.S. senator.

Carrillo, 37, who landed in sixth place in the special primary election for Becerra's congressional seat, was the top vote-getter with 21 percent of the vote Tuesday, or 3,604 votes, according to the unofficial returns. Lopez, 44, a longtime Democratic Party activist who lost his first bid for the Assembly seat in 2012 to Gomez, placed second with 19.13 percent, or a vote total of 3,283.

The results mirrored polling Lopez's campaign had done over the summer about the race, which drew 13 candidates, mainly Democrats and a few members of minor political parties but no Republicans.

"Last night was a culmination of months of hard work, as we built a grassroots army of community supporters and small donors, who made our victory possible," stated Lopez in a release sent out Wednesday morning. "Despite being outspent by six of our opponents, we prevailed and will fight on to the General Election on December 5."

On Wednesday Gomez endorsed Carrillo in the runoff race, calling her "a proven working-class progressive" in a press release from her campaign.

"Congressman Gomez served the people of Assembly District 51 with passion and integrity and, if elected, I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Gomez in standing up for working families and immigrants, and making their issues a top priority in the state Assembly," stated Carrillo.

The largely Democratic district includes the LGBT-friendly neighborhoods of Eagle Rock and Echo Park, as well as a portion of Silver Lake, historically one of Los Angeles' LGBT enclaves. The district also encompasses other neighborhoods north and east of downtown Los Angeles, such as Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, and unincorporated East L.A.

Wendy Carrillo

The third place finisher Tuesday was Los Angeles Community College District Trustee Mike Fong, who drew 16.62 percent of the votes. Garnering 2,852 total votes, Fong could play kingmaker in the runoff race should he decide to endorse either Lopez or Carrillo.

Rounding out the top five finishers were former Obama administration civil rights attorney Gabriel Sandoval , who serves on the state's Voting Modernization Board, and dermatologist Ron Birnbaum. Sandoval, with nearly 11 percent of the vote, and Birnbaum, who netted 9 percent of the votes, could also impact who wins the seat if they throw their support behind Lopez or Carrillo.

Tuesday's race included two other gay candidates, educator David Vela and Alex De Ocampo , an adviser to the Saban Family Foundation. De Ocampo came in sixth place with 7.59 percent and Vela was seventh with 5 percent.

Statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality California had endorsed all three out candidates and state coastal commissioner Mark Vargas , who placed eighth with 4.50 percent. EQCA will now throw its sole support to Lopez in the runoff race, as he would become the ninth member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.

His election would mark a record for the number of out legislators serving in the Statehouse.


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the South Bay LGBT political group BAYMEC brunch fundraiser.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail

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