CORRECTION: A previous version of this article omitted the word "consideration" in Gabriela Cortes' final quotation below. The article has been corrected. (May 16, 2022)

LOS ANGELES — Inside Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural bookstore is where Gabriela Cortes spends most of her days.

One of the perks of the job is being able to read whatever you want, but these days, instead of reading for leisure, Cortes is focused on researching. That’s because California’s primary election is just a few weeks away and Cortes said that “as a first generation voter it’s very, very important for me because it’s also aiding in the communities that can’t vote.”

What You Need To Know

  • California’s primary is June 2, 2022

  • The state's 20th Senate District race is one of the most watched races

  • There is no incumbent in the race and the district is newly redrawn

  • The district includes Burbank, Sylmar, Pacoima, Sylmar and Canoga Park

Cortes grew up and still lives in Pacoima and has never missed an election since she was 18. Now, she’s 25 and takes her vote seriously. She never votes down party lines. She also makes sure to look at candidate’s social media accounts to find out what they were doing for the community before they started their campaign.

“If there’s not any information on that, then I also don’t feel secure by just playing a wildcard and voting for someone I don’t know anything about,” she said.

One of the races affecting her is the state’s 20th Senate District race. It’s a large, newly redrawn district that includes Burbank, Sylmar, Pacoima and Canoga Park. Prior to the re-districting, the 18th District made up a large part of the 20th District. It’s currently represented by Bob Hertzberg, but he’s termed out, so it’s a wide open race now and none of the candidates have any elected experience. Caroline Menjivar, Seydi Alejandra Morales, Ely De La Cruz Ayao and Daniel Hertzberg, Bob Hertzberg’s son, are running for the spot.

Suju Vijayan is the co-leader of East Valley Indivisibles, which is a progressive activist group that is closely watching this race.

“The son of Bob Hertzberg is running, which I think gives him some advantage, but at the same time it’s not all the same district that his dad has been repping all these years, so I think this does make the race a little more wide open,” Vijayan said.

Vijayan is hoping the fact that there is no incumbent brings new energy to that position. It’s a district that is now majority latino. Her group endorsed Caroline Menjivar, but she said regardless of who you vote for, it’s important that your voice be heard.

“It’s super important to vote for someone you believe will represent you well,” Vijayan said.

As for Cortes, as she does her research, she’s not just looking at work experience but life experience.

“I vote for my experiences like how are they taking into [consideration] my experiences and the experiences of my community around me,” Cortes said.