Oak Park native Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat, won the top spot in Tuesday’s runoff election to represent California’s 45th Assembly District.
The 36-year-old Gabriel will finish the remainder of former representative Matt Dababneh’s term, which lasts until the end of the year. Gabriel defeated Republican Justin Clark, a 19-year-old resident of Calabasas.
The 45th District, which includes Calabasas, Encino and the western San Fernando Valley, was represented by the Democrat Dababneh until January when he resigned from office after being accused of sexual harassment by several women.
Yesterday’s election was the second attempt to find a replacement for Dababneh after a special election held on April 3 failed to produce a majority winner. In April, Gabriel and Clark were two of seven candidates on the ballot. Gabriel won 32 percent of the vote and Clark, the only Republican, won 27 percent.
As the two front-runners, Gabriel and Clark became the only two candidates on the ballot in yesterday’s runoff election.
But the two also appeared on the ballot as primary candidates for the November election, competing against the same five opponents they did in April. This time, on June 5, Gabriel won 42 percent of the vote and Clark won 34 percent. In five months they will face off again for the full two-year term in the Assembly.
Gabriel said he didn’t get much sleep as he was waiting for the election results to come in, but that he’s eager to meet the challenge of his new position.
“I was on the phone with folks early this morning, had my first meeting at 9 a.m. and am on my way to my next meeting,” Gabriel said.
His dash to Sacramento will pick right up where it left off.
“We’re going to get right to work, and then we’re going to be campaigning hard in November,” Gabriel said. “I hope to earn everyone’s support for the next two years. We’re just so, so grateful for everyone who put their trust in us, and we’re going to work hard to honor that trust and earn people’s support going forward.”
Gabriel is a constitutional rights attorney who is part of a team representing immigrants in a lawsuit against President Trump, who announced he would repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program has protected nearly 800,000 immigrants from deportation since 2012. It also allowed them to obtain work permits. Gabriel said he will talk to his colleagues regarding the case, as his new position as legislator may affect his involvement going forward.
“I had been involved a lot at the very beginning, sort of during the campaign continued to stay involved to a lesser degree,” Gabriel said. “A lot of those lawsuits are sort of in a place right now where we’re waiting for a decision from the ninth circuit, so I suspect that there’s going to be a pause for a little before anything more happens.”