With over a year to go before the 2022 election race begins in Long Beach, Councilman Rex Richardson has raised close to $170,000—a considerable amount of money for a race in which he is currently running unopposed—according to public campaign-finance reports.

Richardson’s campaign called the haul “the highest amount raised within the first six months of any city campaign in Long Beach history” in a July 30 news release. In that same news release, Richardson, who represents District 9 in North Long Beach, called the fundraising total “a testament to all the work we’ve done together as a community.”

In the first six months of 2021, Richardson’s campaign took in $167,972.43 from 624 donors, representing a wide variety of interests and occupations. Donors include small business owners, real estate developers, labor unions, community organizers, attorneys, lobbyists, firefighter political action committees and political consultants.

One notable contribution of $400—the maximum amount allowed—came from Tom Carpenter, vice president of Acquisitions and Leasing at Frontier Real Estate Investments, who was responsible for the development of The Uptown Commons retail center in Richardson’s district. Mayor Robert Garcia’s campaign also donated $400, as did former Mayor Bob Foster.

Campaign records show Richardson’s campaign spent $51,911.25 in the first six months of the year, bringing his cash-on-hand balance to $126,192.18.

By contrast, four years ago at this time, Richardson’s campaign brought in slightly more than $70,000 in contributions, spent nearly $26,000 and had a cash balance of about $58,000.

The most recent campaign finance numbers for the other council incumbents—Suzie Price, Roberto Uranga and Mary Zendejas—weren’t immediately available.

Richardson has worked to raise his political profile in the last few years. He is a past president of the Southern California Association of Governments and a current governing board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. He’s also the city’s current vice mayor, a position elected by his colleagues on the council.

When asked if his large fundraising was a prelude to a run at the mayor’s office, Richardson said no, though he said he might reevaluate if Garcia decides not to run again.

“I’m old school, man, I think it’s bad form to angle for the mayor’s seat when he’s currently in the position and doing a great job in my opinion,” Richardson said. “I fully support our mayor, Garcia. If he leaves I’m going to have to make serious consideration of what my decision will be, but my plan as it is today, has been the same—I’m running for a third term on the Long Beach City Council.”

Garcia hasn’t yet officially announced that he will run for mayor again in 2022, according to public records from the city’s clerk office. His current campaign committee is for lieutenant governor in 2026.

All odd-numbered council seats are up for grabs in the June 7 election, as well as citywide seats such as mayor, city prosecutor, city attorney and city auditor.

Richardson’s fundraising total, and lack of a political opponent, didn’t surprise Justin Levitt, a political science professor at Cal State Long Beach. His reason was that the current redistricting process, which won’t be finalized until at least December, could potentially change the boundaries of every council district.

“We know incumbency can be a big advantage, but if your district is changing, it may not matter so much,” said Levitt. “Until the redistricting map is in, we don’t know who the challengers are going to be.”

The official census data that provides the foundation for redistricting won’t be made public until September, but a 2019 estimate from the American Community Survey found that the 9th District has gained about 1,000 people.

“We know that Long Beach will have to make major changes,” said Levitt. “This will be probably the biggest change to district boundaries in a very long time.”

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.