Candidates lining up to run in the 51st Assembly District

51st State Assembly District | State of California


As we jump from one special election to the next, candidates are already lining up to represent the California’s 51st Assembly District – including a dermatologist, an Echo Park man who was wrongly imprisoned, and a woman who ran for Congress just last April.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to call for a special election to replace departing Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who been elected last week to the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 34th District. Gomez replaces Xavier Becerra, who left Congress to become Attorney General of California.

The 51st Assembly District covers most of the Eastside, stretching from Echo Park and Silver Lake on the west, Eagle Rock and Highland Park on the north and El Sereno and unincorporated East Los Angeles on the east.

Here are some of the people who’ve declared themselves candidates for this assembly district:

Ron Birnbaum is running in the California 51st Assembly District election

Ron Birnbaum

Ron Birnbaum

The son of Argentinian immigrants, Ron Birnbaum is a dermatologist, whose campaign is focusing particularly on health care. He is a supporter of single-payer health care for California and advocates for the end of medical bankruptcies.

“I have seen the savage injustice of our health care system firsthand,” he said on his web page. “I have seen the inhumanity that forces families to make wrenching decisions between paying for medications and paying for food and rent.”

Franky Carrillo running in 51st California Assembly District

Franky Carrillo

Franky Carrillo

Franky Carrillo was convicted of a drive-by murder when he was 16, and spent the next 20 years in jail until five of the six witnesses against him – including the victim’s son – recanted their testimony (The sixth refused to testify.) The court also said witnesses could not have seen the shooter well enough to identify him accurately.

Since his release from prison in 2011, Carrillo has earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his lawyer Ron Kaye told the L.A. Times. Last year, Carrillo was also awarded $10.1 million from the city after he sued, saying deputies had improperly influenced the witnesses into picking his picture out of a photo lineup, the Times said.

In announcing his candidacy, Carrillo told KPCC, “I know firsthand what it means to face hardship, and how important it is to know you have an advocate in your corner.”

Wendy Carrillo is one of the candidates for the California 51st Assembly District

Wendy Carrillo

Wendy Carrillo

Wendy Carrillo (no relation to Franky Carrillo) first came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador when she was a child, according to the biography on her campaign web site. She grew up in in Boyle Heights and City Terrace, becoming a labor leader with SEIU Local 2015, leading communications and organizing efforts for long-term care workers. She has also worked as a radio and digital journalist and producer. She is currently on the advisory board of Vision to Learn, a non-profit that provides student with free glasses.

Carrillo ran in the primary last April to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra in Congress. She received about 5 percent of the vote, coming in sixth out of 20 candidates.

Luis Lopez is one of the 51st Assembly District candidates

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez

Probably the earliest starter in this race, Lopez declared his candidacy for the Assembly months ago, before Gomez even won the runoff for Congress. Lopez made his announcement just one day after the primary in April narrowed down the Congressional race to Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn.

Indeed, Lopez has already come close to the job, having lost to Gomez in a runoff in 2012.

Lopez is a former president of the East Area Planning Commission and a former chair of the City Regional Prop K Commission. He built and ran the Latino Coalition Against AIDS, and is a founding board member of Honor PAC, a statewide Latina/o LGBT political action committee.

He has also managed large‐scale data projects for KPMG Consulting Inc. (now Bearing Point, Inc.), and was a Social Science Analyst at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.

Gabriel Sandoval

Gabriel Sandoval

Gabriel Sandoval is a former Obama Administration civil rights attorney and senior advisor and director of policy for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. He was also Deputy Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. His parents were immigrants from Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí in Mexico.

“Our community deserves a fighter who can hit the ground running when it comes to standing up to the Trump administration and advocating for our community’s interests and values,” Sandoval said, in announcing his candidacy.

51st Assembly District David Vela

David Vela

David Vela

David Vela is a former member of the Montebello Unified School District Board of Education, and is currently senior vice president at the Lee Andrews Group, a public outreach firm in Downtown Los Angeles. He was senior legislative assistant to former State Assembly member Jackie Goldberg, senior advisor to the Employment Development Department under Gov. Gray Davis, and senior deputy to former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

He was born in Boyle Heights and was raised part-time by his grandmother in East Los Angeles  while attending Montebello Unified Schools.

The Eastsider’s Daily email digest includes all new content published on The Eastsider during the last 24 hours. Expect the digest to land in your in email in box around 7 p.m. It’s free to sign up!

Once you submit your information, please check your email box to confirm your subscription.


  1. Just terrible

  2. Geez…Wendy Carrillo is running again? There’s a reason she lost. No direct community ties or on-the-ground work with any of the communities she wants to represent, just ask around.

    It’s the same thing with Gabriel Sandoval, but a bit worse, since he’s even more establishment than Wendy.

  3. Where’s MIKE FONG?!

  4. Mario Olmos is running to fight to protect children from sexual abuse and he is not accepting donations from anyone. He is voteraising instead of fundraising.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *