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Planned Parenthood Ally Advances in California Special Election

Ally Boguhn

"This race highlights the tremendous interest in elected office by a wide range and wide diversity of younger Latinos politically engaged and well experienced, who make up the crop of the next generation of our civic leaders," said University of California political scientist Matt Barreto.

California Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and Democrat Robert Lee Ahn seem likely to advance to a June 6 runoff in the special election to replace Xavier Becerra in the U.S. House of Representatives.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) nominated Becerra to replace Kamala Harris as the state’s attorney general when she won a seat in the U.S. Senate. The special election attracted 24 candidates, 19 of them Democrats, hoping to represent the state’s 34th Congressional District.

State law allows the top two finishers in the primary, regardless of political party, to move to the general election. Gomez received more than 28 percent of the vote, while Ahn received almost 19 percent of ballots cast, as of Wednesday morning.

Half the candidates were women, and most were either immigrants or the children of immigrants, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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“This race highlights the tremendous interest in elected office by a wide range and wide diversity of younger Latinos politically engaged and well experienced, who make up the crop of the next generation of our civic leaders,” Matt Barreto, professor of political science at University of California, Los Angeles and co-founder of Latino Decisions polling firm, told NBC News.

Gomez received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood’s political arm in February. “Jimmy Gomez is a true champion for Planned Parenthood health centers and the women they serve,” Celinda Vasquez, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles, said in a statement. “We are confident that Jimmy will continue to advocate for women and families in Congress, and be a strong ally in the fight for access to Planned Parenthood health centers across the Country.”

Gomez introduced legislation during his time in the state assembly criminalizing the distribution of illegally obtained recordings in the wake of discredited attack videos released by anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. Brown signed the measure into law in September.

Democratic candidate Arturo Carmona came under fire days before the special election after several of his former employees alleged mistreatment and sexism. Masha Mendieta, who worked with Carmona on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 presidential campaign, penned an article on Medium detailing what she said she experienced firsthand.

Several organizations condemned Carmona in the wake of the allegations. “We must address abuse & mistreatment of women in the progressive mvmnt. Arturo Carmona is unfit for Congress,” NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted on Monday. “We stand with the women who came forward about Arturo Carmona’s mistreatment.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of political action committee Democracy for America, said the allegation against Carmona “disqualifies him for Congress.”

“At Democracy for America, we believe women. Unacceptable, oppressive behavior at work thrives in the shadows,” Chamberlain said. “Too often, good people rationalize, ignore, or permit this kind of behavior to protect the campaign or the accused. When women step forward to shine a light on the misogyny they experience, we all have a responsibility to take it seriously and act accordingly.”

Democracy for America endorsed Democratic candidate Wendy Carrillo in the race. Both Carmona and Carrillo had received about 5 percent of votes, as of Wednesday morning.

Carrillo in a March interview with Rewire discussed the importance of being “bold and unapologetic in defending communities that rely on services like Planned Parenthood or other free clinics, [and ensuring] that the facilities are continuing to receive the federal funds that they need to stay open.”

“At the end of the day, this is about protecting the rights of people and women to ensure that they have access to quality health care and that they are not putting their lives in danger,” Carrillo said when asked about her position on comprehensive reproductive health care. “And so I think it’s important that we are champions, that we are pro-choice 100 percent, and that we are unapologetic in being that way.”

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