An unexpected race for Congress in Los Angeles could be a preview of the future of elections under Donald Trump.
The special race to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives has a surprising 23 candidates. More than half of the candidates identify as women. And at least 18 of the 23 candidates are people of color—and one of them could be the first formerly undocumented woman in Congress.
It’s indicative of a trend that could sweep across the nation in anticipation of the 2018 elections: A young black Democrat in Florida has already declared he's running for governor; in Michigan, a 32-year-old Muslim man has entered the race. And with at least four more special elections coming up to fill congressional seats vacated by new Trump appointees in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Georgia, these elections will be an early test for Trump resisters—to see if they can translate activism on the streets to votes in the booth.
Organizations that work to support upcoming candidates say they have seen surges in people interested in running for office. Run for Something reports that over 7,500 people have told them they’re interested in running for office since the inauguration, with about a third of them self-identifying as people of color.
Latino Victory Fund spokesperson Jess Torres told Fusion that they’re not endorsing anyone in the race in California’s 34th Congressional race. “But it’s a dream come true, with so many Latino progressives running, which is what we’re all about,” she explained.
Community leaders here say voters in Los Angeles may have the opportunity to elect the most pro-immigrant member of Congress.
There are 23 candidates who will appear on the ballot on Election Day on April 4: Nineteen Democrats, a Republican, one Green Party candidate, a Libertarian, and one candidate with no political affiliation. Here's a quick look at some of the candidates.
Wendy Carrillo, 36
Carrillo is a journalist and community advocate who was undocumented for several years after her family fled violence in El Salvador. Carrillo spent several weeks at Standing Rock and was traveling when she decided to run for Congress.
Arturo Carmona, 38
Carmona, the son of Mexican immigrants, has spent his career working with progressive advocacy groups. He was the National Deputy Political Director for Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.
Kenneth Mejia, 26
A certified public accountant by day, Mejia wasn’t registered to vote until he ran for office last year when he was a write-in candidate for the same Congressional set. Raised by his Filipina mother, Mejia says he was inspired to get involved in the political process after learning about Bernie Sanders.
Adrienne Nicole Edwards, 28
Edwards is a familiar name on Los Angeles ballots. She ran against soon-to-be California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose spot she’s now running to fill, in 2016. She also ran for Congress in 2014. A community advocate and organizer, Edwards works as a housing counselor.
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, 42
Gomez, who currently serves in the California State Assembly, is the son of Mexican immigrants. In the assembly, Gomez boasts his work on paid family leave. Before being elected in 2012, he worked in local, state, and national politics.
Maria Cabildo, 49
A long time affordable housing developer and advocate, Cabildo is currently director of homeless initiatives for the LA County Community Development Commission. The Los Angeles Times endorsed Cabildo and said she is "someone who can bridge the gap between the old guard and new idealists" running for the congressional seat.
Other candidates have also been endorsed from other notable figures. Actor and activist Danny Glover has endorsed Carmona. The 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein also recently campaigned alongside Mejia.
The writer and commentator Shaun King, who is based in Brooklyn, recently endorsed Wendy Carrillo in a tweet to his 636,000 followers.
But now it’s time for voters to make their own endorsements.
Only 11.45% of eligible LA voters voted in the last local election, according to The LA Times. This race may also show us whether younger, more progressive, and diverse candidates can turn out the vote.
Torres, the Latino Victory Fund spokesperson, said this is a challenge her organization is working through.
“We’re trying to think programmatically [of how] to turn resistance into change at the ballot box,” Torres said.