Jeannine Pearce will not seek reelection to City Council

Jeannine Pearce, who has weathered a series of controversies since her election to the City Council in 2016, announced today that she will not seek a second term in March 2020.

Pearce said in a statement that the decision was not due to the press, nor to “pressure from the corporate CEO or the other people or associations who oppose progress.”

She said the decision was made “to prioritize what matters most—my daughter, my health, and my commitment to advocate and build power for a progressive community.”

The councilwoman has faced controversy almost from the start of her term, including a public feud with her former chief of staff and allegations of conflict of interest, which sparked an investigation by state watchdogs this summer.

The announcement on Friday throws open an already heated race for Long Beach’s 2nd District that covers the Downtown waterfront and Alamitos Beach areas. So far, seven people have announced their intention to run, including realtor Robert Fox, mental health provider Jeanette Barrera and former businesswoman and Long Beach police officer Cindy Allen.

Pearce, who was backed by labor after a career as an organizer, faced scrutiny in 2017 after she and her former chief of staff, Devin Cotter, were found in a parked car on the side of the 710 Freeway in an alcohol-fueled dispute.

Pearce was formally censured by her colleagues on the City Council after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced it was looking into allegations of “inappropriate behavior and potential conflicts of interest” stemming from the Cotter incident. She also survived a recall attempt by a group of district residents.

More recently, Pearce has faced accusations of conflict of interest after a Post report in May in which she admitted receiving payments for consulting work from a principal at the Queen Mary, which is in her district. After the story was published, the city hired a consultant to look into the matter, finding that Pearce had a financial conflict of interest that disqualified her from voting on matters related to the historic ship, as well as the cannabis industry. She also did not disclose those payments on required forms for public officials.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has also opened an investigation into whether Pearce violated state law.

The race for 2nd District saw more controversy this month when FPPC Commissioner Brian Hatch told the Post that he was considering a run for Pearce’s council seat, setting up an unusual situation in which an ethics watchdog considered a challenge against a councilwoman whom he may vote to sanction in the future.

Multiple sources have since told the Post that Hatch has decided he will not run for the 2nd District. Reached by phone on Monday, Hatch said he wasn’t available to talk and promptly hung up on a reporter.

Pearce, 38, has enjoyed wide support from labor groups during her rocky tenure. She worked as a former organizer with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and while on the City Council, spearheaded efforts to pass Measure WW in 2018, which provided panic buttons for hotel workers, among other protections.

Pearce also served as the director of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, and helped start Long Beach Rising, which promotes civic participation.

In her statement Friday, she touted accomplishments such as opening a Bixby Dog Park, passing new tenant protections and creating a fund for immigrants and youth.

Councilman Rex Richardson, an ally of Pearce who represents the 9th District in North Long Beach, said in a statement Friday that it’s been an honor to serve with Pearce for the last three years.

“Throughout this time, she has consistently and passionately stood tall on issues that affect families throughout Long Beach, such as fighting for the middle class, dignity in the work place, and quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Richardson said.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].