SAN DIEGO – Voters in several San Diego County communities head to the polls Tuesday for a special election for the 80th Assembly District seat.

Three candidates are vying for the seat held by Lorena Gonzalez: Democrats David Alvarez and Georgette Gómez and Republican Lincoln Pickard. Gonzalez, one of the most notable figures in California politics of the past decade, resigned from the role in January to lead the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO as its executive secretary-treasurer.

Gonzalez officially endorsed Gómez to replace her in the California Assembly. She is among Gómez’s most critical backers in a long list of endorsements including Gonzalez’s husband, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher, the board’s Vice Chair Nora Vargas and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

Joining FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade and Andrew Luria on Monday, Gonzalez said her former role represents a “working-class district,” including parts of San Diego and stretching south to Chula Vista and the U.S.-Mexico border.

She said the district didn’t change much in her tenure, but that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact.

“The big change has been during COVID when you have essential workers who went to work every day and contracted COVID during this time, unfortunately at disproportionate rates,” she said. “(They) don’t have adequate health care, need good jobs, good wages and that’s what matters to the district.

“It’s been that way for a while. We worked every day to try to make it better for working folks in the South Bay but we need to continue that.”

Asked about why she left the seat prior to the end of her term, Gonzalez said the opportunity to lead the 2.1 million-member labor union “put me in a position that would appear to be a conflict.” Her tenure there now begins in July.

“I wasn’t sure once given that opportunity that I could represent without people assuming there was some kind of conflict,” she said. “I went ahead and resigned to ensure that nobody felt like that was a legal or a moral conflict. Now I’m just waiting to take over the California Labor Federation.”

On Gómez, Gonzalez cited the former San Diego City Council president’s “consistency when it comes to issues of working people” as the reason why she drew an endorsement over Alvarez. In recent weeks, Gonzalez said local voters have seen mail from big oil, big tech and corporations “pushing against Georgette and for David,” which she said was a telling sign.

“That says a lot (about) who your supporters are,” Gonzalez said. “She is being supported by firefighters and nurses and teachers and everyday folks, environmentalists and community members. Unfortunately, despite what he used to believe in and how he used to present himself in the community, he’s clearly gone to Sacramento and sold himself to big corporate lobbyists in a totally different way.”

For the winner of the seat, she said “staying true to your roots and values and your community” are vital.

“You go to Sacramento and we don’t see people who we see at the bus stop or serving our food or coming to pick up their mail next door,” she said. “We see a bunch of corporate lobbyists. We see a bunch of people with money and influence and power. You have to have a backbone of steel to say, ‘No, I’m never going to sell out my constituents. I will always stand with them. We will do what’s right.'”

She adds, “That’s the biggest challenge for anyone who’s elected, but quite frankly, that’s why I’ve stuck with Georgette Gómez because she will do that.”

The April 5 special contest is a primary, the results of which will be certified on April 14. If any candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they will win the replacement seat outright, serving until December. If no candidate achieves that mark, the top two vote-getters will move to a runoff, which will be held at the same time as the June 7 primary election.

Headed to the polls Tuesday? Check out FOX 5’s guide to the special election and meet all three candidates running to replace Gonzalez. Also, see our interviews with Gómez and Alvarez.

FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade, Andrew Luria and Matt Meyer contributed to this report.