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Laura Friedman likely to face Republican in race for Schiff's former House seat

Sacramento, CA - March 20: California Assemblymember Laura Friedman along with fellow lawmakers honor women in California making an impact during Women's History Month on Monday, March 20, 2023 in Sacramento, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) is leading the pack in the race to replace Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in the House of Representatives. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) will likely face off against Republican intensive care physician Alex Balekian in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Adam B. Schiff in a coveted Los Angeles-area House seat.

Given the political makeup of the left-leaning district, a Friedman victory is likely in the fall if Balekian joins her on the November ballot.

Friedman took a decisive lead in early primary returns and the Associated Press officially called the race for her Wednesday night. The AP has not yet called the race for Balekian, but he maintains a substantial lead ahead of state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), who remains in third place.

Read more: Here's what results in key California House races look like so far

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 (D-Burbank) held the seat for more than two decades, but left to run for the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

"I am excited to share that I have advanced to the General Election in CA’s 30th Congressional District after finishing in first place! I want to thank so many of you for your support & partnership," Friedman said Wednesday evening on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. She also thanked "the Democratic candidates in this race who uplifted our democracy by running hard-fought campaigns."

Balekian put out a statement Wednesday saying he was "humbled" by the overwhelming support, characterizing his campaign's momentum as reflective of "a collective yearning for leadership that prioritizes the welfare of our families, champions parental rights, and addresses our most pressing challenges with practical, actionable solutions."

Portantino sent a letter thanking supporters Wednesday evening and saying that while results were "not yet final," he was "afraid that our path forward is difficult."

Fourth-place finisher Mike Feuer, a fellow Democrat who is narrowly trailing behind Portantino, also sent a note to supporters Wednesday afternoon thanking them and saying he didn't anticipate the outcome of the race "changing in a meaningful way."

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) will advance to the November ballot, likely joined by Republican Benito “Benny” Bernal in the race for California's 29th district.

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 Wednesday evening. 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. The next tranche of vote counts is expected to be released on Thursday afternoon.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.