Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster announced a widely anticipated endorsement in the race for the city’s highest office Tuesday, throwing his name behind Councilman Robert Garcia.
The announcement ends months of speculation over whether Foster would weigh in on the crowded field of candidates to replace him.
“Vice Mayor Garcia has been a strong partner who has led efforts to grow the local economy, reform pensions and support our public safety personnel,” Foster said in a statement. “There is no one better equipped or prepared to lead our city into the future.”
Many credit Foster, a former Southern California Edison executive, with making major changes in employee pensions and helping the city stay on solid financial footing through tough economic times.
His endorsement of Garcia could be a turning point in the primary race, scheduled for April 8, said Jeffrey Adler, a Signal Hill-based political consultant who watches Long Beach politics closely.
Foster raised more than $1.2 million during his 2006 mayoral campaign -- the largest amount to date in Long Beach, by far. His vast contributor network could serve as a "great equalizer" for Garcia in a close race, Adler said.
Garcia, 36, was first elected in 2009, becoming the youngest council member in Long Beach history.
If elected, Garcia would become the first Latino and first openly gay man to hold the post.
“I think it’s time for new leadership and a new direction, and I’m excited to bring that,” Garcia said after the announcement.
“Mayor Bob Foster has been a strong and successful leader for Long Beach.... I’m honored to have his endorsement.”
Garcia will face nine other candidates in the mayoral race, including a number of other city insiders and political heavyweights like Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, City College Trustee Doug Otto and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who held Garcia’s council seat before being elected to the state legislature.
Also running are Damon Dunn, a former NFL player and real estate investor; Jana Shields, a local nonprofit executive; Erick Rock; Richard Camp; Mineo L. Gonzalez; and onetime Los Angeles mayoral candidate Steven Mozena.
As of Dec. 31, Dunn had raised the most campaign funds at $279,908, nearly half of it his own money, and Otto had accumulated $255,413, with an additional $100,000 from himself reported last week.
Garcia raised $206,641 last year, while Lowenthal and Schipske raised $175,320 and $61,398, respectively.
The top two vote-getters in the April primary will meet in a runoff election in June.
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