Recently, many residents of Los Angeles participated in a special election to determine who would take the seat in congress for the 34th district in the state of California. For the final round of voting in May and early June, the two candidates who ran against each other were Robert Lee Ahn and Jimmy Gomez, both part of the democratic party.
Ahn, 41 years old and well educated with a polished background in law and business, aimed to pursue a career in politics for the first time. Although an outsider, he emphasized his native upbringing in the Los Angeles area and his hands-on experience and awareness of the problems that he could improve if elected. As a result, he was able to make it to the final vote alongside already popular candidate and politically experienced Jimmy Gomez.
In terms of the election, Ahn hoped to win and make history as the only Korean-American person ever elected to congress. In a way, it would be a step toward a more diverse political system in the United States, where Asians would have some voice.
However, with a majority of the residents in the district being Latino (about 70 percent), Ahn faced a major setback right from the beginning, as Gomez received support from most, if not all, of these people. After all, Gomez, as a Latino growing up, experienced intense poverty and hardships in his childhood early on and could, therefore, directly sympathize with these people.
To attempt to overcome this initial disadvantage, Ahn, early on and throughout the campaign, utilized an aggressive “door-to-door” canvassing strategy to secure a plethora of easy votes, especially from fellow Asians and politically inactive people. After all, his policies regarding affordable healthcare and a better education to adolescents were all sensible and supported by many. Over the course of the many intense weeks to rally up support, Robert Lee Ahn looked to like-minded volunteers, ranging from high school teenagers to senior citizens, to support him and his race to make history.
On June 6, when the special election came to a close and the results came out, Ahn unfortunately lost to Gomez by about a 60 to 40 percent deficit. He certainly came close in rallying support for his own cause, as Asians make up only about 20 percent of the district, but Ahn got double that number, indicating he did indeed have a relatively effective campaign.
As a whole, though, this special election for congress certainly gives an indication of how American politics is evolving to possibly include more Asian representatives. Although the effort to make history did not succeed, the Robert Lee Ahn campaign did exceed its expectations thanks to the dedication and fervor of him and his supporters.