Laura Friedman takes early lead in race for Schiff's former House seat

As initial vote counts rolled in on Tuesday night, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) took an early but decisive lead in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Adam B. Schiff in a coveted Los Angeles-area House seat.

Friedman still had a strong lead as of 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, when the most recent tranche of results were shared by the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder’s office. Republican intensive care physician Alex Balekian was in second place.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) was in third place, while former Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, also a Democrat, narrowly trailed Portantino in fourth place. The county is expected to release the next set of vote counts between 4 and 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The top two finishers, regardless of party, will continue on to the November general election. Early returns also showed two other Los Angeles-area House races in solidly Democratic districts shaping up to include both a Democrat and Republican on the November ballot.

California’s 30th district — which includes a wide swath of the city of Los Angeles, all of West Hollywood, Glendale and Burbank, and part of Pasadena — is overwhelmingly blue, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by more than 3 to 1. Schiff held the seat for more than two decades, but left to run for the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the Senate.

Given the political makeup of the district, a Friedman victory is likely in November if Balekian joins her in the runoff. But results could still change significantly in the hours and days to come as more ballots are counted. The race would be more lively if two well-funded Democrats face off in November.

Read more: Inside the crowded field of L.A. congressional candidates in the race to replace Schiff

The field running to replace Schiff was jam-packed with 15 candidates — a long list that also included Los Angeles Unified school board member Nick Melvoin, trans activist G. “Maebe A. Girl” Pudlo and former “Boy Meets World” star Ben Savage, among others.

Friedman has been a leader on transportation, housing and environmental issues in the Assembly, writing the state’s so-called fur coat ban of 2019 as well as laws that make it easier to build accessory dwelling units to ease the housing crisis and barring local governments from mandating parking spaces as part of most development near transit stops.

In the San Fernando Valley seat currently held by retiring Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Pacoima), Cárdenas-endorsed candidate Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood) was decisively in first place with nearly half of the vote. Republican Benito “Benny” Bernal was a distant second in the race for California’s 29th district as of early Wednesday morning.

In California’s 31st district — where San Gabriel Valley voters are choosing a new representative for the first time in a generation following Rep. Grace F. Napolitano’s decision to retire — results remained close as of early Wednesday morning. But Democrat and former member of Congress Gil Cisneros was leading the pack, with Republicans Daniel Martinez and Pedro Antonio Casas narrowly trailing in second and third place, respectively. State Sens. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera) followed in fourth and fifth place.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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