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With Gonzalez resigning, two big names vie for her Assembly seat

Wednesday, Janurary 5th will be Lorena Gonzalez’s last day in the California Assembly. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere looks at what that means for her Assembly District 80.

With Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez leaving her Assembly seat to lead the California Labor Federation, two well-known politicos are dropping their names in the running to replace her.

Former San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez has already said she’s running for the 80th Assembly District seat.

“I'm definitely ready, more than ready, to bring that fight, that fire that I have inside of me to Sacramento, and really continue to uplift the work that Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez is leaving behind. And I would love an opportunity to continue her legacy and build upon it,” Gómez said.

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In 2020, Gómez unsuccessfully ran to replace Susan Davis in California's 53rd congressional district, losing to fellow Democrat Sara Jacobs.

Another contender for the role is David Alvarez, who also previously served on the San Diego City Council.

“I saw a lot of projects that were promised to the community but never happened,” Alvarez said. “I made sure that they came to fruition, building parks, new libraries, and affordable housing — throughout the city and throughout the district. And I want to do the same work in the state Assembly.”

RELATED: As He Leaves City Council, David Alvarez Turns Attention To Border Relations

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, speaks at a rally after her measure to limit when companies can label workers as independent contractors was approved by a Senate committee, in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, July 10, 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, speaks at a rally after her measure to limit when companies can label workers as independent contractors was approved by a Senate committee, in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

After eight years in office, Gonzalez announced her resignation Monday during the Assembly's afternoon floor session.

Starting her new role leading the California Labor Federation is bittersweet, especially after redistricting maps split up her constituents, she said.

“This is a dream job and a dream opportunity at a time when I was being forced to choose between different portions of my district, quite frankly,” Gonzalez said. “And that was a terrible choice and I was grappling with ‘ Do I run in the 79th, do I run in the 80th?’ This allowed me to say I can represent all these folks.”

RELATED: Lorena Gonzalez resigns from Assembly, returns to labor roots

State legislators must live in the same district they represent. California Citizens Redistricting Commission recently drew new boundaries for the state Assembly, putting Gonzalez in the 79th District — the same district as fellow Democrat Akilah Weber who took office in April after a special election.

UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser said the resignation comes a few years ahead of Gonzalez's lifetime 12-year term limit in the state legislature, and arguably provides her with more political power in California.

“She has been the leader in labor legislation at the statewide level pushing for things like paid sick leave, overtime for agricultural workers, making the gig economy workers a part of the normal employment system, so this was in some ways a logical next step for her,” he told KPBS Midday Edition.

The Democratic lawmaker said her last day in office will be Wednesday, Jan. 5. After that, Gov. Gavin Newsom has 14 days to set a special election to fill her seat.

Gonzalez will begin her new position at the California Labor Federation in July.