Tuesday’s election results are still being tabulated, but the early results show some decisive winners in Long Beach races and clues to how others might perform in runoff races.
While citywide races for city attorney, city auditor and city prosecutor are already decided, other critical races for mayor and City Council are still a toss up.
Up to four of the city’s five City Council races could be headed to a November runoff election, with the closest being the city’s 1st District in Downtown where incumbent Councilmember Mary Zendejas is currently avoiding a runoff by about 50 votes.
The mayoral race, which has historically depended on who can win East Long Beach, had some surprising results Tuesday night. North Long Beach Councilmember Rex Richardson, who is trying to become the city’s first Black mayor, was competitive in the region and even appears to have scored a narrow victory in the newly aligned 5th District.
His runoff opponent, Councilmember Suzie Price, has represented Southeast Long Beach during her two terms on the council and her high vote margins in the area showed her popularity in the district. However, Price’s traction in North, West and Central Long Beach was less impressive, according to county voting data.
Voter turnout, which is currently projected at 25% citywide, will most certainly play a big role in November, as both candidates will have to run up the vote totals in their respective areas of strength to win.
Los Angeles County election data through Friday showed Richardson (43%) leading Price (39%) by about four percentage points, with Richardson adding about one point to his lead since Tuesday.
But it’s where Richardson got his support that could make the difference in November when turnout could be higher than it was in last week’s primary.
Richardson won seven of the city’s nine city council districts, with the biggest margins in favor of Richardson being in West and North Long Beach, where Richardson has served as a councilmember since 2014.
He outperformed Price by 2,369 votes in the city’s 7th, 8th and 9th Districts, according to updated county data released Friday.
Price won the city’s 3rd and 4th City Council districts with a combined 2,889 more votes than Richardson. Price has represented the 3rd District since 2014 and got more than double the support of Richardson with 4,277 votes counted as of Friday.
The two are currently separated by 1,698 votes, but additional updates are expected throughout the month. There are still 506,000 ballots left to count in Los Angeles County, though it's unclear how many are from Long Beach.
Both campaigns expected Price to do well in East Long Beach, where more conservative voters have backed more moderate candidates historically. However, Richardson is outpacing Price in the 5th District.
The district used to include the areas east of the Long Beach Airport and around El Dorado Park but was changed significantly through redistricting. It now includes the Bixby Knolls, Cal Heights and Los Cerritos Neighborhoods west of the airport.
Republican voters could consolidate behind Price, and some have expressed an intention to do that in November. But Long Beach is a liberal city; over 50% of voters in Long Beach still identify as Democrats.
A poll put out by the Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy showed that when the field was narrowed to just Price and Richardson, Democratic voters said they had voted for or would vote for Richardson at a rate of four to three, with nearly one-third of voters undecided.
New sheriff in town?
The crowded field of candidates looking to unseat Los Angels County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been reduced to two, with former Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna set to run against Villanueva in November.
As some might have expected, Luna had a good showing in Long Beach. He bested Villanueva and the other candidates in every district in the city, with a total of 16,393 votes counted for Luna as of Friday.
Villanueva came in second among Long Beach voters with 8,591 votes.
Long Beach Democrats have already lined up behind Luna in the days after the primary, with several city councilmembers and Mayor Robert Garcia urging county voters to back to Luna.
“It’s time for the chaos of the current sheriff to end,” Garcia said in a tweet supporting Luna over the weekend.
Villanueva ran as a reformer in 2018 and ousted then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who also served as LBPD Chief before running for sheriff in 2014. However, since his election, Villanueva has become a sore spot for Democrats who backed his campaign.
Villanueva has openly feuded with the Board of Supervisors and has defied subpoenas to appear before an oversight commission in Los Angeles. Despite running as a Democrat, Villanueva has swung to the right and has become an advocate against “wokeism” on the campaign trail.
Luna is running as a reform candidate and has vowed to confront deputy gangs in the department's ranks and to restore civility to the office. Luna's span as chief was marked by a collegial relationship with the City Council and a more contentious one with community activists who said his department lacked accountability and transparency.
Villanueva (33%) holds a small lead over Luna (26%) as of Monday. About 40% of the field voted for neither Villanueva nor Luna, and the county's sheriff race will come down to who can attract those votes by November.
A concerted effort by the local Democratic Party to steer voters toward Luna could lead to a former LBPD chief leading the county’s largest law enforcement agency for the second time in the past decade.