The race in California State Assembly District 64 was a four-way competition that ended with Democrats Mike Gipson, a member of the Carson City Council (2005-present), and Prophet La'omar Walker, an engineer and community advocate, advancing to the general election after the nonpartisan, top-two open primary.
Gipson, who turned his years of experience serving in the Mayword Police Department (now part of the LA County Sheriff's Department) and Carson City Council into a campaign platform, garnered 51 percent of the vote in the primary election. Walker, a community organizer and activist, finished a distant second with 21.4 percent of the vote.
While Gipson received support from a majority of primary voters, under the top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation or how much of the vote they get. This is why, under "Top-Two," the general election cannot be simply referred to as a "runoff election."
Gipson’s 30-point lead might have come from the many unions he has worked with: the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), where he ensured the enforcement of the contractual right of teachers, the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Local 399, where he was the legislative and political director, Justice for Janitors (SEIU Local 1877), where he was the political director, and SEIU Local 99, where he was the business representative.Gipson also likely got a significant boost from Carson City constituents, who
first elected him to the city council in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2013, suggesting that he still has voter support.
Trailing by such a huge margin, Prophet Walker faces a major challenge heading into November. However, the candidate remains positive.
His determination is a theme seen throughout the personal story of resilience and triumph he has shared during his campaign.
When he was just an infant, Walker lost his mother to drugs. He was tried as an adult at 16 for robbery and great bodily injury and sentenced to 6 years in prison. It is not an uncommon story in his district, but what he got out of it is the inspiring element that has driven his campaign.
While in prison, Walker helped start a program that gives incarcerated minors the ability to earn a two-year college degree, and became the program’s first graduate. He went on to attend Loyola Marymount University and graduated with a degree in engineering -- all before he turned 22.
Since then, more than 100 minors have graduated from Walker's program and later enrolled in 4-year college programs. Walker has since become a successful engineer and continues to develop and head community betterment programs.
Walker’s story, leadership, and commitment have earned him admiration from hundreds of people from all walks of life, including the young people he has supported, education and foundation leaders, and even his former prison guards and probation officer.
His campaign has gotten so much attention that it has been financially supported or endorsed by actor Matt Damon, TV pioneer Norman Lear, and Compton Mayor Aja Brown.
While Gipson maintains his strong lead, Walker remains driven.
“The primary campaign was kind of introducing me to voters," he said. "But now I think we’ll be able to make a great comparative argument as to why we’re the better candidates.”