Early election returns show incumbents taking lead in LBCC races

Early returns show all three incumbents running for the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees with sizable leads over their challengers.

Area 3 incumbent Sunny Zia has 73% (4,950 votes) while challenger Marianne Case has 27% (1,877 votes); Area 5 incumbent Virginia Baxter has 60% (10,304 votes) with challenger Juan Cepeda-Rizo bringing in 40% (6,783 votes).

Board President Uduak-Joe Ntuk, the Area 1 trustee, did not have a challenger and has won reelection.

The trustees serve four-year terms and govern the community college district by allocating money for student programs and ensuring the district’s long-term fiscal health, which could be a key issue in upcoming years. The board in recent years has been wracked by in-fighting and litigation, exemplified last month when Ntuk accused Baxter of being aligned with the far-right conspiracy group Qanon.

Zia was first elected to the LBCC Board in April 2014 and said one of the reasons she’s running for reelection is to ensure the school develops more workforce training. Case, her challenger, is a human resources specialist who never set up a campaign committee or website.

Like Zia, Baxter joined the board in 2014. She said she has more than 50 years of experience at the college, having started working there in 1970 teaching U.S. history, and is running again to continue bringing her “fiscally conservative” ideas to the board as it tries to deal with both the enrollment declines and increasing pension liabilities.

Her challenger, Cepeda-Rizo, is an engineer with Rocketlab and an instructor at Cal State Long Beach who said the board’s internal battles have been “embarassing.”

Ntuk has sat on the LBCC board since 2018 and also works as a supervisor of the California Geologic Energy Management Division, which regulates oil and natural gas wells across the state.

Though he ran unopposed, Ntuk raised more than $93,000 and spent $69,000 during the campaign, though most of his committee’s expenditures were donations to other political campaigns. Zia raised $69,000 and spent about $60,000, even though Case raised no money during the race. Baxter out-raised Cepeda-Rizo, $38,000 to $35,000, but was out-spent by a huge margin—her $9,000 to his nearly $29,000, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Wednesday, Nov. 9 with up-to-date vote tallies.

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.
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