Endorsement: Josh Lowenthal for state Assembly

Josh Lowenthal, a candidate to represent California Assembly District 69.
Josh Lowenthal, a candidate to represent California Assembly District 69.
(Courtesy of Josh Lowenthal )

Two Democrats are running to represent the newly drawn California Assembly District 69, which includes most of Long Beach, Signal Hill and parts of Carson and Catalina Island, on the Nov. 8 ballot: Long Beach City Councilman Al Austin and Josh Lowenthal, a businessman from a prominent local family.

Lowenthal has the name recognition, connections and other advantages that come from belonging to a family steeped in politics. He is the son of two well-known politicians, retiring U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and former Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). His brother is a Superior Court judge.

We think Lowenthal is the best choice, not because of his name or family legacy, but because he is stronger on critical issues with a broader vision for confronting this district’s many challenges, from climate change, air pollution and the economy to housing and homelessness.

Lowenthal has spent most of his career in the private sector and made a competitive but unsuccessful run for an Assembly seat in 2018 in a neighboring Orange County district. He started a conference calling company, has worked for more than two decades in the telecommunications industry, owns and operates local restaurants and is on the board of a local nonprofit that provides child care to families that are facing homelessness or involved in the child welfare system.

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Among Lowenthal’s top priorities are addressing climate change, improving air quality and protecting people’s health in a district that is hit hard by pollution and other negative effects from the cargo-moving industries concentrated around the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

Lowenthal wants to address the housing crisis regionally, rather than city by city, invest more in services to keep people from falling into homelessness and offer women and families more support for child care and early childhood education. He supports moving quickly to zero-emission transportation, wants to ban offshore oil drilling, and supports recent legislation that requires buffer zones between new oil and gas wells and homes and schools, and wants to see a phaseout of existing urban drilling operations that threaten public safety.

“I am vehemently and totally against offshore oil drilling in every form,” Lowenthal said.

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Lowenthal’s opponent, Austin, is a thoughtful local leader who has been reelected twice and cares about addressing inequality and improving government. He has the experience that comes from years of work in government and organized labor, including 10 years on the City Council and his current job representing workers for one of the nation’s largest public employee unions.

But Austin’s positions on housing, policing and the environment gave us serious pause. He is backed by police officer and deputy sheriffs’ unions, who have opposed criminal justice reforms like Proposition 47 and tried to blame them for increases in crime, and says he will vote mostly in line with their priorities. He opposed two important housing laws passed last year, Senate Bills 9 and 10, that override local zoning to spur development of more homes, and says he was concerned about more density “disrupting the character” of neighborhoods. (Lowenthal supports those laws.)

Austin’s climate agenda is not well defined and he gives little indication he will go against fossil fuel interests that hold significant sway in Sacramento. He expressed concerns about the new law, SB 1137, that bans new oil and gas drilling near homes and schools, saying there are local “challenges and consequences that weren’t evaluated.” He raised an objection the petroleum industry itself has often made: that the law could amount to government “taking” at well sites in communities like Long Beach, Signal Hill and Carson that “were built around oil in a lot of ways” and where past efforts to restrict drilling have met resistance.

This district needs someone who will work aggressively to improve some of the nation’s worst air quality and stand up to powerful police unions, oil companies and NIMBYS that obstruct progress toward a better and fairer state.

Lowenthal is the candidate best poised to do that and voters should cast their ballots for him.