Voters in Long Beach went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots for a new mayor, city attorney and most of the City Council, setting the stage for a potential shake-up in city politics.
The mayor’s race has attracted much of the attention and much of the campaign money with a field of candidates that includes both political heavyweights and city insiders.
If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will meet in a June 3 runoff.
After outgoing Mayor Bob Foster announced last year that he would not seek a third term, the race was thrown wide open, attracting contenders such as Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, Council members Robert Garcia and Gerrie Schipske, former NFL player and real estate investor Damon Dunn and Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto.
Nonprofit executive Jana Shields, businessman Steve Mozena, state auditor Mineo Gonzalez and residents Richard Anthony Camp and Eric Rock are also seeking the mayoral post.
With Los Angeles County's second-largest city confronting rising pension costs and a listless economy, the front-runners have focused largely on the bread-and-butter issues of jobs, restoring city services and attracting business.
"It's been more of a campaign of 'Kumbaya' rather than distinguishing themselves as candidates," says Jeffrey Adler, a political consultant and Long Beach political observer.
Lowenthal's name is perhaps the best known in Long Beach; her ex-husband, Alan, and former daughter-in-law, Suja, are familiar campaigners to residents. The assemblywoman has received endorsements from Gov. Jerry Brown and a slew of legislators and prominent labor groups.
Dunn, a relative newcomer to the city, has cast himself as an outsider with a rags-to-riches story and sharp business know-how. He has earned the endorsement of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Otto, an attorney and Long Beach City College trustee, has emphasized education as a policy priority. His 11-point jobs plan calls on the city to take a more active role in business development. He has scored the endorsement of respected Long Beach resident and former Gov. George Deukmejian.
Garcia would be the first Latino and first openly gay mayor in a town once known as "Iowa by the sea." Garcia has served on the council for five years and is optimistic about Long Beach's future, describing it as a potential "Silicon Valley of the south." Mayor Foster has endorsed Garcia.
Schipske, another openly gay candidate, has run on a platform of more transparency in government and stripping the budget of waste.