The blues are coming to the beach—but will Amazon?

The Backroom is a column by the staff of the Long Beach Post with notes and analysis, along with bloops and blunders, from the city’s political scene. It runs every Thursday. To contact us, email [email protected]. For questions or concerns, please contact Managing Editor Melissa Evans: [email protected] or 562-437-5814. 

Long Beach will be bleeding Democrat Blue starting today as hordes of party members pile into town for a four-day endorsing convention that also includes a forum for the party’s top presidential candidates.

This is the first time Long Beach will host the convention, a huge coup given the state’s earlier—and far more influential—primary election in March.

Leaders in the city are cutting no corners to ensure a smooth event: There’s been months of discussion over security, maintenance workers have power-washed the pavement and removed graffiti near the convention center, the homeless have been cleared out and (we presume) treated to a 72-hour barbecue and pool party in city Prosecutor Doug Haubert’s backyard.

For anyone interested, we’ve got the highlights here.

For the rest of you, here’s some lighter notes to the weekend agenda.

  • The state’s Irish caucus is one of many special interest groups that will gather Friday night. Their agenda? Reunification! (What could go wrong?). Others meeting to ensure their interests are represented in the party platform are 18 other caucuses, including ones representing children, Asian Pacific Islanders, rural communities, LGBT, computers and the internet, women and veterans.
  • While other politicos are knocking back tequila shots on Pine Avenue, Sen. Bernie Sanders will be hosting an ice cream social (with dancing!) for supporters at 10:15 p.m. Saturday at the convention center.  Other after-hours shindigs include a party at the CNA nurses station (!), the “NorCal after party!”— and don’t forget dessert and wine with California Tribal Leadership.
  • The convention gives an opportunity for local politicians to raise their clout. Long Beach “progressives”—a term that has lost all meaning—will host a luncheon at the Ordinaire on The Promenade Friday from 11 to 1 p.m. Councilmembers Rex Richardson, Jeannine Pearce and Roberto Uranga, along with councilwoman-elect Mary Zendejas, are among your hosts.
‘No worry’

Dee Andrews has won more elections than any member of the City Council: He won a special election in 2007 with about 35% of the vote, he won again in a regular election in 2008, then ran unopposed in 2012. His most impressive victory came as a write-in in 2016, when he captured enough votes to avoid a June runoff. (His name wasn’t even on the ballot.)

He is now seeking a fourth term (thanks to the passage of Measure BBB), this time against six challengers.

The opponent best positioned to give the “Son of the Sixth” a headache appears to be Suely Saro, a Cambodian activist who is highly organized, well-funded and is picking up some hefty endorsements.

This week her campaign announced that Councilman Roberto Uranga had joined a list that includes state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the SEIU and Unite Here Local 11.

“She’s out knocking on doors and having thoughtful conversations with voters,” said Derek Humphrey, a campaign consultant for Saro who also worked on Mary Zendejas’ successful run for council.

Given Andrews’ popularity, it may be problematic for Saro that another prominent member of the Cambodian community, Steve Meng, is also seeking the seat, potentially fracturing a community that has been working for years to have more of a say in local governance. (Cambodia Town is spread mostly among the 4th and 6th districts.)

One other factor, which could benefit Saro: The March 3 election will be unlike all others in recent memory, in that California has moved up its primary, which is now aligned with city elections. That means low voter turnout in the Central Long Beach district (it was 10.5% in 2016) will assuredly improve with more Democrats showing up to the polls.

Andrews, meanwhile, isn’t fazed. “I have no worry,” he told us. “I’m going to win my election.”

As far as the endorsement by Uranga, his colleague on the council, Andrews, who has lived in the district for 75 years, noted that “endorsers don’t win elections; people win elections.”

More endorsements

The Backroom is keeping close tabs on the field of candidates for each of the council district races, as the filing period deadline is still weeks away on Dec. 6.

District 2 remains the most volatile, particularly with the incumbent announcing she will not seek reelection.

One of the recent entrants to the race, Cindy Allen, will be securing the endorsement of Councilman Rex Richardson in North Long Beach, who described Allen as someone who will be a “strong ally in our work to preserve the middle class, maintain quality of in our neighborhoods, and ensure economic opportunity is extended to all parts of our city.”

Robert Fox, meanwhile, held a fundraiser at Boathouse on the Bay this week in his campaign for the seat, encouraging the public to “see why everyone in town is talking about our campaign to restore the voice of the people and reinvigorate democracy in our City.”

It’s going to be a fun election season.

Prime time

This just in from the Speculation Desk: We are taking our money off Amazon Go as our No. 1 suspect to move into the old Haggen/Albertsons/Lucky supermarket space on Spring Street at Palo Verde Avenue in East Long Beach and shoving the entire wad on just a plain Amazon grocery store.

The educated part of the guess was a story initially reported by CNET, announcing that the company is opening “Amazon’s first grocery store” in Woodland Hills in 2020 (with our smart money guessing that the word “first” implies subsequent openings in the near future).

Adding to our idle speculation is the fact that the eastern part of town is practically overrun by Amazon trucks these days, including, according to one of The Backroom’s legmen, “hundreds of identical Amazon vans—branded and brand new, clearly never driven—sitting parked in an empty lot behind Memorial Hospital near Spring and Willow streets.”

Assuming we are 100 percent correct in our prophecy, and further assuming the store will be pretty much like the Woodland Hills store, it will be a fairly traditional supermarket, complete with checkout lines (unlike the Amazon Go model), and won’t be targeting your high-end shoppers, ceding that demographic to its Whole Foods chain.

And just to show you we’re not afraid of doing a little workmanlike journalism, we contacted Amazon for a statement. The company responded with an eloquent email: “Amazon is opening a grocery store in Woodland Hills in 2020.” – Amazon Spokesperson. Amazon Spokesperson added, “We don’t have anything to share outside of that.”

Happily for you, The Backroom does.

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