LOS ANGELES — On Saturday afternoon, Jimmy Gomez, the California legislator who wants to represent the northeastern part of this city in Congress, picked up his wife, Mary, and drove their electric car to a street not far from their home. They knocked on doors together, cramming literature into mailboxes full of fliers for his 21 rivals. It took 15 minutes for the couple to run into an actual voter, a video editor named Dave Rogers who greeted them from his porch.
“Another candidate!” said Rogers with a laugh.
For five minutes, Gomez and Rogers small-talked about the growing trendiness of the neighborhood — the comedian and podcaster Marc Maron is a neighbor — and Gomez subtly pitched himself as the successor to Xavier Becerra, who left Congress to become California’s attorney general and opened up a safe Democratic seat.
“He never endorses,” Gomez said. “All of a sudden, I get a call, and I hear: The attorney general’s gonna endorse you. Wow!”
“That made my decision a lot easier, with 22 candidates,” Rogers said.
Gomez, the Harvard-educated son of Mexican immigrants, is the front-runner in the first congressional race of the Trump era. It’s happening in a part of America where Republicans are becoming scarce.
In 2000, the last year that a Republican presidential candidate campaigned in California, George W. Bush won 29.5 percent of the vote in what’s now the 34th Congressional District. In 2016, Donald Trump won just 10.7 percent. California’s unique primary system means that the top two candidates from the April 4 primary, regardless of party, will advance to the June 6 general election. The overwhelming partisan nature of the district means that two Democrats — one of whom is expected to be Gomez — are likely to advance.
Gomez is not exactly on the vanguard of the new progressive resistance movement that is sweeping the country in protest of Trump. He’s been endorsed by a slew of elected officials — and the California Democratic Party itself. But his background — and liberal politics — has not turned off progressives. Gomez supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, but a surge of new voters won the district for Bernie Sanders.
“I like him a lot, and I’ve known him a long time,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said of Gomez. “You have a lot of progressives in that race, but Jimmy’s progressive, too. Credential-wise, it’s a win-win for us.”
It’s the district’s very blueness that’s made…