UPDATE | Updated unofficial results released Friday evening from Tuesday's election in Long Beach showed total votes for Councilman Al Austin moving up a fraction of a percentage point—from the initial 50.1 percent to 50.56 percent, according to the city clerk's report.
The results, which are expected to be certified and official by early next week, did not change other candidate races either. According to the report, Austin seemed to further secure his outright win by gaining 243 more votes in his favor. He ended with 1,937 votes compared to his main opponent Wesley Turnbow who received 129 more votes, resulting in a total of 1,261 votes—or 32.92 percent.
To view the updated results, click here.
PREVIOUSLY: Initial Results Have Austin Edging Out Turnbow, Avoiding June Runoff for Long Beach Eighth District Council Seat
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin thanking supporters during election night win with his family behind him. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
4/13/16 at 11:29AM | With every update from the Long Beach City Clerk’s scrolling election results, the 4300 block of Atlantic took turns unleashing shouts of excitement. The initial results reported just after the polls closed at 8:00PM had incumbent Al Austin’s party astir, as it reflected the councilman could clinch a victory with just a few percentage points and avoid a June runoff.
Just down the street, Wesley Turnbow supporters were just as confident that Turnbow would be buoyed by the uncounted votes and keep Austin from breaching the 50 percent threshold needed to seal the deal. Turnbow siezed on the opportunity to fire up his supporters gathered at EJ Malloy’s.
“This is not a win for Al Austin,” Turnbow said from atop a chair in the middle of the crowd. “The deal is this is probably what the vote is going to look like, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to get 50 percent. We’re in the runoff and we’re in play for eight weeks.”
Then came the next release nearly two hours later, pushing Austin just over 49 percent leading this party, stock full of past and present council members and community leaders, to again let out celebratory response.
“You got it baby,” one man exclaimed as the newest number pushed Austin over 50 percent, a number he never relinquished.
Both candidates did their best boxer impressions, bobbing and weaving with every blow delivered by the city clerk’s official results. But as the bars closed, and Tuesday night turned to Wednesday morning, Austin was presumptively propelled to victory by the slimmest of margins, garnering the necessary 50.1 percent of the vote to end the campaign last night. Turnbow placed second with 33.5 percent of the vote and Laurie Angel finished third with just over 16 percent.
Austin, with a freshly popped bottle of champagne in his hand, stood with is wife Daysha and their two children as he thanked those still left inside Weiland Brewery and pledged that tomorrow he’d be back to business, now that the campaign for re-election had ended.
“Tomorrow we get back to work,” Austin said. “We’ve had a great four years and we’re looking forward to four more. Thank you very much.”
In the end, just four votes separated Austin from victory and eight more weeks of campaigning toward a runoff election during the June 7 primary. Turnbow had expressed optimism that he would be able to absorb some of Angel’s votes if the race did indeed end up on the June ballot and it’s unclear if he’ll pursue a recount. Just 11.5 percent of the city’s roughly 168,000 people participated in the municipal primary Tuesday night.
Long Beach City Clerk Maria De La Luz Garcia said that there are some 1,300 outstanding vote by mail or provisional vote by mail ballots that have yet to be counted. Those ballots are expected to be tallied and finalized by the end of next week. In the Eighth District, there are 422 uncounted ballots that need to be added to the total. That figure represents about 11 percent of the total votes cast in the district.
"In a council district like council district eight it’s close, it might make a difference," De La Luz Garcia said.
Even in defeat—if the numbers hold up with provisional ballots still to be counted—Turnbow was gracious, and noted the message he was selling did not fall on deaf ears. Clearly, a third of the 3,380 Eighth District residents who found the time to cast a vote agreed with his message and he said his level of success last night indicates it’s now up to Austin to address those wants and needs, namely a desire to be part of the civic process, not merely informed.
“I think that’s because people recognize that there are some issues, issues of crime and issues of not connecting to the city, issues of good jobs here,” Turnbow said of his campaign’s ability to push this race to the final report from the city clerk. “So we ran on that and when you get these kinds of numbers against an incumbent there’s something to be said.”
Austin and his supporters felt it was important that he retain his spot on the council so he could finish the agenda he set out to achieve four years ago.
Former Ninth District Councilman Steve Neal addressed this, stating that most council members have an eight year plan. His was able to live on by virtue of fact that his former chief of staff and current councilman, Rex Richardson, took up the reigns of office after Neal pursued a State Assembly seat. He said Austin was the man best suited to carry forward the current momentum of the district.
“By the time you finish your first term, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on how to move things and how to make the positive changes for your district,” Neal said. “To change horses in the middle of the stream […] I think Al knows how to bring people together, he has good relationships with everyone on the current council and those things are important for moving an agenda that’s going to benefit your constituents and at this time he’s best situated to continue moving this community forward.”
The elections last night also came at a critical juncture in the city’s budget. The city is preparing to enter a period of projected budget deficits and will require leaders experienced in all the nuances of the budgetary process. Austin said that the complexity of the budget and the way the elections are structured gives very little prep time for new office holders to learn the process.
“It took a couple budget cycles,” Austin said of his own learning curve. “I was sworn in in July and we were already into the fiscal budget at that point. The timing of our budget with new council members can be daunting if you are not familiar with it.”
Maybe equally as daunting was the juggling job that Austin had pulled off over the past several months in balancing his day job, council duties campaigning and also being a family man. He said he’s looking forward to getting back to work and working to improve the district, namely improving the amount of park space, continuing the economic development upswing and improving public safety.
Austin had received support from a majority of his council colleagues, with each endorsement stressing the work he’s done for his community and the passion he has for continuing to serve it. Mayor Robert Garcia joined the trickle of council members who took part in Austin’s election night party, and, at Austin’s request, took to the mic after it became clear he was likely headed toward another four-year term.
“As you all know, Al’s got integrity; he’s a fighter for working people and he believes in the whole district, whether you’re more on the north side or Bixby Kolls. Wherever you’re at, he believes in everyone and I really admire that about Al, about Daysha, about the family,” Garcia said. “Thank you all for making our life, and my life as mayor and our life on the council easier because Al is going to be a great voice in these next four years to get it done for Long Beach.”