Daryl Supernaw watches voting numbers on a television screen with his campaign advisor. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
Daryl Supernaw became the newest member of the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night after defeating opponents Herlinda Chico and Richard Lindemann in a winner-take-all special election to fill the vacated Fourth District seat. Supernaw took in just over 52 percent of the vote en route to victory, outpacing Chico (42.4%) and Linedmann (4.8%).
As the first numbers were posted to the City Clerk’s office Tuesday night’s Fourth District Special Election, some supporters of Daryl Supernaw spoke in concerned tones about the lead of just over 200 votes and wondered why it wasn’t larger, given that absentee ballots should’ve been accounted for already. But as the numbers continued to roll in, and Supernaw maintained an 11 percent margin over Herlinda Chico, it became evident that Supernaw was going to accomplish what he fell short of three years ago; he was going to become the newest member of the council.
Recognizing this, Supernaw, standing atop a fireplace inside the E.J. Malloy’s where his constituents gathered for the candidate’s election-night event, began to thank those that supported him in his victorious campaign.
“I just want to thank the residents, the voters of the fourth district for really believing in this campaign,” Supernaw said. “I always felt that given the right candidate, they would stick up for them, and they did it tonight. I’m very thankful for their support.”
The news that Supernaw, a lifelong fourth district resident, was finally getting the opportunity to represent them was a sigh of relief for some of his supporters whom felt that Chico, viewed as his biggest competition at the outset of the campaign, lacked the intimate relationships with the community that Supernaw had fostered over the past three decades. Jim Coke, who lives on the new councilman’s block, said that he has a deep concern for issues, especially those affecting the district he’s now been elected to represent.
“He’s devoted his entire adult life to helping people in this district with important issues involving the city as a volunteer,” Coke said. “He doesn’t have an ambition to move on to higher office, he wants to serve the people of this community sincerely as he already’s been doing for 35 years. To me, that’s pretty convincing.”
Supernaw is replacing Patrick O’Donnell who vacated the seat after being elected to the State Assembly last year. Supernaw lost to O’Donnell in runoff election in 2012 in which he openly criticized O'Donnell for having his eyes set on another elected position. According to the city clerk’s office, the special election cost the city an estimated $175,000.
The council member-elect again ran a very “grassroots” campaign, taking in few endorsements, and from the outside, investing less money than the over $60,000 spent by Chico, who also gathered close to 50 endorsements of her own. Jeremy Harris, Senior Vice President of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said that it was a combination of Supernaw’s business acumen and work ethic that ultimately convinced the Chamber's Political Action Committee to get behind him.
“We felt that Daryl worked hard, so when it came to endorsement process, of course we wanted him to win,” Harris said. “But at the end of the day, sometimes endorsements don’t matter. It’s how hard that candidate is going to work.”
Supernaw brought up the fact that nearly the entire council had endorsed Chico, including Mayor Robert Garcia, and in response playfully recited a Groucho Marx quote.
“I refuse to belong to any organization that would have me as a member,” Supernaw said.
Chico lauded Supernaw for his efforts to run a civil campaign, something she said they agreed on early on in the race. In giving what amounted to a concession speech, Chico spoke to the packed house at The Red Barrel and assured them she wasn’t going to disappear.
“What I’ve said from the very beginning is I’m not going anywhere,” Chico said. “I’ll continue to be engaged in the community and active in the community. I’m still going to be making an impact, a difference. I’m still going to be building bridges because that’s what I do. The great thing is, that my network of friends and community advocates and leaders has just expanded.”
She attributed her loss in part to the difficult task of mobilizing voters that aren’t traditionally civic engaged. Chico, while not committing to campaign again next year for the same council seat, said that her team expects there to be a shift in voters in the future because of their efforts to engage untapped communities in the district, especially the westside.
“It’s tough to get communities out that feel disengaged, who aren’t traditional voters,” Chico said. “It’s really hard to convince them that their vote means something. That’s part of the work that we need to continue to do, building community and civic engagement.”
Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga echoed those comments in a statement he released after the final poll results were posted.
"Ms. Chico campaigned hard and, at the end of the day, voter turn out continues to be a challenge,” Uranga said. “Fourth District voters have made their choice and I look forward to working with Councilmember-Elect Supernaw to make Long Beach the great city it is destined to be."
The defeat did little to move her supporter’s away from their stance that they were behind the right candidate. Long Beach Young Democrats Vice President Mike Varela said that the hours his organization put in was a labor of love for the candidate they believe can still win a spot on the council if she chooses to run again and enough young voters are activated in the next campaign cycle that will coincide with a Presidential election that will aim at doing just that.
“I know that she’s genuine about the things that she puts out there,” Varela said. “There are no false promises, any smoke and mirrors. It’s all about ‘I’m running because I care about the community and I want to accurately and efficiently represent them.’”
With the Fourth District seat finally filled, the council will now have the opportunity to move forward on issues that, like the city’s possible incorporation of medical marijuana dispensaries, are still materializing, or have been postponed out of respect for the district, like the hotly debated topic of JetBlue’s request to build a federal customs facility at Long Beach Airport.