Upset in mayor's race could help reshape Long Beach politics

Upset in mayor's race could help reshape Long Beach politics
Damon Dunn, left, and Robert Garcia are headed to a runoff after Tuesday's Long Beach mayoral election. (Friends of Damon Dunn for Mayor; Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Setting the stage for a shake-up in city politics, a councilman and a real estate investor held off heavily favored Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal in Long Beach's mayoral election and will meet in a June runoff.

Unofficial tallies in Tuesday's vote showed Councilman Robert Garcia leading the pack with 25.4% of the vote, and former NFL player and real estate investor Damon Dunn close behind with 22.3%.


Lowenthal, a political heavyweight in the port city, garnered 19.6%. It marked the first time in her lengthy career that she lost an election day contest.

About 7,000 last-minute mail-in ballots and provisional votes remained unprocessed Wednesday evening, according to the city clerk's office, but city clerk's officials and political observers said they were not likely to change the results in most races.

In addition to the mayor's office, Tuesday's ballot also included races for city attorney and a majority of Long Beach's nine City Council seats, a makeover that may change the political landscape in Long Beach.

But all eyes have been on the mayor's race, in which 10 candidates — many of them political heavyweights and city insiders — have been locked in an expensive battle.

More than $1.7 million was raised in the primary, setting a city record.

If he is elected, Garcia would be the city's first Latino and openly gay mayor. He received a boost from outgoing Mayor Bob Foster, who endorsed Garcia after announcing last year that he would not seek a third term.

Dunn, a relative newcomer to the city, is a former NFL player with a compelling rags-to-riches story who has pitched his business acumen as a potential asset for City Hall. If he is elected, he would be Long Beach's first black mayor.

The vote marked the first election defeat for any of the politically connected Lowenthals.

Lowenthal's ex-husband, Alan Lowenthal, served in the Legislature before being elected to Congress in 2012 and Suja Lowenthal, their former daughter-in-law, is on the City Council and is running for Bonnie Lowenthal's Assembly seat.

The election also appeared to decide two of the five open council seats outright, with Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Price winning in District 3, and Rex Richardson, chief of staff to Councilman Steven Neal, winning in District 9.

In District 7, Community College Trustee Roberto Uranga had just over the 50% of the votes required to avoid a runoff with chemist Joan Greenwood, but that could change after the final ballots are counted. Garcia aide Lena Gonzalez and pastor Misi Tagaloa will compete in the June runoff for District 1's council seat, as will Los Angeles County budget manager Stacy Mungo and businessman Carl Kemp in District 5.

City Atty. Charles Parkin and City Councilman James Johnson will also meet in a runoff to decide the hotly contested city attorney's race.

Also, Measure A, a proposal to tax medical marijuana sales, passed, but would only take effect if efforts to draft city regulations on pot shops are successful.


Twitter: @cmaiduc