Two Candidate Mayoral Race Heats Up
From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 9
By Steve Propes
Entering the primary with 18 straight election victories, the extended Lowenthal family suffered its first defeat with Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal’s third place finish in the race for mayor of Long Beach, leaving current vice mayor Robert Garcia and businessman Damon Dunn the only candidates left standing.
Perhaps it was fitting that the most partisan post-primary swipe was by Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal about her ex-mother-in-law, Bonnie Lowenthal, whose campaign issued an erroneous photo of San Diego in an election mailer instead of a Long Beach photo, which they laid to an ad agency hired by the campaign.
“Look at the landscape behind me,” said Suja Lowenthal, herself a winner of all four races she ran in. “Welcome to the Second District. It’s not San Diego. It’s Long Beach. We just needed to clarify that in case anyone wondered.”
Since that victory party at the Maya, mayoral candidate Garcia’s campaign has attracted unwanted attention on a variety of fronts.
Take the Garcia campaign signs placed in a crisscross fashion at a height which impeded them from being removed by property owners. Referring to the law that prevents candidates coordinating with political action committees (PACs), Garcia responded, “I cannot comment on that stuff, I didn’t pay for that.” Pressed as to whether he thought the signs were a good idea, Garcia said, “Had I wished they had done that? No. We can’t communicate with them.”
On March 21, CSULB students who participated in a get-out-the-vote effort were bused to a pro-Garcia pool party at the Maya Hotel. No campaign laws were broken as there was no indication that there was an effort to direct votes to Garcia.
On the same day, a Garcia campaign operative also hired a bus to bring a group of 15 to 20 potential voters from the Cambodian Center to City Hall so they could register to vote on a provisional basis as part of the registration process can take several days to validate. They were turned down by the city clerk. However, an investigation of this incident was launched by City Prosecutor Doug Haubert over the allegation that the names of Garcia and Johnson were written on at least one of their hands.
Garcia’s mayoral opponent Damon Dunn wrote to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to join in the investigation. “The city prosecutor opened the investigations,” that at least one of the people who came in to vote “had the words Garcia and Johnson written on the hand,” said Dunn. “I read about that in the newspaper. No one knows what happened. Doug Haubert isn’t talking about that. I was just requesting it be put it in the hands of someone out of Long Beach politics. We only asked the DA to continue the investigation. Haubert has jurisdiction over misdemeanors; the DA handles felonies.” However, despite that referral, Dunn stated, “We won’t be making that an issue.”
As First District Councilman, Garcia supported and voted on a proposed boutique hotel on Ocean Boulevard on July 9, 2013. However, when the matter came before the Coastal Commission on April 8, 2014, Coastal Commissioner Garcia voted no on giving the applicants a requested extension on their project.
Dunn contended, “The City Council approved a hotel. He voted for it on the council, but against it on the commission because the operators wouldn’t agree to make it a union hotel. The hotel would have been a good way to kick off development down there. It’s disappointing.”
Challenging that conclusion, Garcia stated, “As a commissioner we use the Coastal Act; council members use the charter and our laws. Votes often differ and members vote differently using different set of laws and codes.
“The vote was unanimous to deny. It was for a variety of issues, including access, views, and low-cost accommodations. We don’t use union issues to make decisions.”
Asked if the different policies impede clear policy, Garcia responded, “Not really. It’s a different level of scrutiny. We use different measures to judge projects. That’s why Coastal Act is in place to give extra layer of scrutiny for projects on our coastline.”
On April 15, Garcia left the council chambers just prior to a vote on a settlement over the issue of police on the donning and duffing lawsuit. Some have charged this absence was to avoid taking a stand on the issue. “He gave the impression he was ducking the vote,” said Dunn. “I don’t make a conclusion on something I can’t prove.”
Garcia responded, “There are tons of votes all time, I believe it was on the consent calendar. It’s not unusual for members of the council to leave during a debate or before a vote is taken. I would have voted yes so it would have been 7-0.”