Early returns in the hotly contested race for mayor of Long Beach showed no clear winner Tuesday evening, but current City Councilman Robert Garcia was in the lead with 27.7% of the vote. With only about 21,000 early mail-in ballots counted, real estate investor Damon Dunn had 21.1% and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, who received the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown, was close behind with 18.7%.
There are about 285,000 people registered to vote in Long Beach; the city clerk's office predicted that only 25% to 30% of them would cast ballots. In addition to picking a new mayor, voters are also choosing a city attorney and a majority of Long Beach's nine council seats, setting the stage for one of the most significant shake-ups in city politics in more than a decade.
But the most attention has gone to the mayor's race, where a number of political heavyweights and city insiders have been locked in an expensive battle for a job that comes with expectations of reviving both the port city's economy and reputation.
Garcia, who if elected would be the city's first Latino and openly gay mayor, scored the endorsement of the outgoing Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. Foster announced last year he would not seek a third term. Dunn is a former NFL player and one-time secretary of state candidate who has pitched his business acumen as a potential asset for City Hall. His campaign has been largely self-funded, with $445,000 of his large war chest coming from his own pockets.
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who has run on a platform of increased government transparency, had secured 15.7% of the precincts reporting, and Long Beach City College trustee Doug Otto had 13.7% of the vote.
The initial returns came after city election workers scrambled to fix a number of absentee ballots that were found to contain irregularities that caused their second pages to scan incorrectly.
City Clerk Larry Herrera launched a plan to reprint ballots for a majority of the city's polling places, and duplicate votes for mail-in ballots by hand on the newly printed forms.