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Gomez Will Fit In Well With Democrats’ Liberal Wing

Newly elected California lawmaker brings wealth of political experience

State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez won the special election in California’s 34th District on Tuesday. (Courtesy Jimmy Gomez Facebook page)
State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez won the special election in California’s 34th District on Tuesday. (Courtesy Jimmy Gomez Facebook page)

California Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez has spent his career in politics and labor organizing and will fit into the liberal wing of the Democratic caucus.

Given that experience, expect him to be a major voice on labor and workplace issues. His bill to expand California’s paid family leave was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2016.

Another of his bills that was signed into law created a loan program for small businesses to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of his goals was to reduce lawsuits against small businesses: “More than 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in California, often by predatory litigators looking for statutory penalties rather than remedial relief.”

Gomez defeated fellow Democrat Robert Lee Ahn by a 60-40 margin on Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Xavier Becerra, who resigned to become state attorney general.

Reducing domestic violence is one of Gomez’s policy priorities. In Sacramento, he twice chaired a select committee on the issue, and supported a bill that created a specialty license plate to raise awareness of domestic violence. The funds raised go toward a state grant-making program.

He also co-authored a law to allow municipalities greater regulation over massage parlors, including the number of licenses granted and the ability to impose greater fines for health standards violations and illicit activity. Some of these establishments are fronts for prostitution and human trafficking.

Gomez has served on the state Assembly’s Natural Resources and Water, Parks and Wildlife committees with a focus on reducing pollution. In 2017, he introduced a bill to increase the maximum penalty from $25,000 a day to $37,500 for companies not complying with hazardous waste control regulations. Another of his bills would provide loans to low-income individuals to purchase low-emissions cars.

Gomez, 42, grew up in Southern California, raised by Mexican immigrant parents who often struggled to make ends meet.

“When I was seven years old, I got pneumonia and spent seven days in the hospital,” he said. “That stay almost bankrupted my family. They ended up having to make the decision of either paying their mortgage or paying the hospital.”

He wants to close the gap between immigrants and native-born citizens. He authored a bill that expanded in-state college tuition to immigrant students who graduated in three years or less, closing a loophole that barred them from lower tuition.

Gomez wants schools to teach media literacy. He introduced a bill to combat “fake news” by adding “civic online reasoning” to middle- and high-school curricula. He told Fox News in January 2017, “We want people to look at every piece of information they’re reading online … with a critical eye and start asking more questions.”

The congressman-elect worked at Subway and Target after high school. He enrolled in community college and eventually transferred to UCLA, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to earn a master’s in public policy from Harvard.

Gomez has worked exclusively in politics and organizing since. He was an aide to a Los Angeles city councilor and to former California Rep. Hilda L. Solis, and worked as political director for the United Nurses Associations of California.

He told the Los Angeles Asian Journal recently, “Health care has always been a personal issue for me and it’s actually why I worked with the United Nurses Association of California to teach nurses how to be the best advocates they can be for their patients and themselves.”

In his first run for office, he was elected to the state Assembly in 2012. The district includes portions of East Los Angeles, which is almost entirely Hispanic, as well as a part of downtown Los Angeles, and extends northward to the outskirts of Pasadena and Glendale.

Gomez, who was considered the establishment candidate, consolidated support from the California Democratic Party, labor unions, and Becerra. His state Assembly district overlaps with much of the 34th, giving him a natural name-recognition boost.

Twenty-three candidates entered the race, 19 of them Democrats ranging from the establishment wing to backers of Bernie Sanders. Gomez and Ahn, a Democratic lawyer and former appointed member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, earned 28 percent and 19 percent respectively in the April open primary, and moved to the June runoff as the top two vote-getters.

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