Early election returns Tuesday night show Long Beach Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez handily defeated her Republican challenger in the race for a state Senate seat—a result largely expected due to the heavy Democratic tilt of the 33rd district.
With mail-in ballots and all precincts counted, Gonzalez, a Democrat, won the seat with 69% of the vote, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder. Guerrero received 31% of the vote.
The councilwoman and her supporters celebrated early at the Hotel Maya, where Supervisor Janice Hahn and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara—who vacated the Senate seat when he won election in November—gave speeches, among others.
Gonzalez said she is ready for the challenge of representing Long Beach in Sacramento.
”I’m not afraid, I’m not shy,” she said Tuesday night. “I’m bold and excited to not only represent Long Beach but the entire Southeast region.”
Former 33rd district senator Ricardo Lara congratulating Gonzalez. pic.twitter.com/xqS0JnvZlm
— Jason Ruiz (@JasonRuiz_LB) June 5, 2019
The 33rd District includes cities along the 710 freeway, including Vernon to the north and most of Long Beach to the south, with a population of nearly 927,000.
Gonzalez was the top vote-getter in the March primary special election with over 31% of the ballots cast in her favor. However she fell short of receiving the votes needed to avoid a runoff due in part to a crowded field of candidates that included several Democrats. Guerrero received 14% of the vote to secure second place and force the runoff.
Gonzalez was the frontrunner during the entire campaign, garnering endorsements from multiple elected leaders including Lara and Mayor Robert Garcia. She also received support from labor and environmental organizations, among others.
She continued to face heavy criticism that began ahead of the March primary, specifically the more than $1 million spent in support of her campaign by a big oil-backed independent coalition.
Gonzalez denounced the money, which paid for advertising on billboards, television and online.
The councilwoman also faced backlash for refusing to debate Guerrero (she denied a request to debate at the Long Beach Post). Both candidates took part in a forum in early May.
Gonzalez ran on a platform that included protecting the environment and advocating for healthcare reform, much like her predecessor, Lara, who introduced a bill seeking to create a single-payer system in the state. The bill ultimately failed, with critics saying that it was too expensive for a state this size to take on such an overhaul of the state’s healthcare system but Gonzalez has not ruled out reviving such discussions.
Guerrero, a perennial candidate for various statewide offices, focused on education and pension reform as well as more a more business-friendly climate. He considers himself a classical economist and believer in the free market.
While he was praised for his background and knowledge in the finance industry, some criticized his lack of support for issues related to women’s reproductive rights, the LGBTQ community and undocumented immigrants.
At an election night party in Downey, Guerrero celebrated with his supporters, but did not concede the race until Wednesday morning.
“I am proud of our dignified campaign, and the analytical, data-driven, and substance-based approach I took on policy issues,” Guerrero posted on Facebook.
One supporter, David Hernandez of the Los Angeles Hispanic Republican Club, said the election was “an uphill battle for someone who has integrity—regardless of party.”
Gonzalez will serve the remaining two years of Lara’s Senate term.
Gonzalez’ seat on the City Council is expected to be filled with a special election in November.
City Clerk Monique de la Garza said the county will run the election, which would be a winner-take-all format.
As has been done in the past, she said it is likely that the mayor will appoint a caretaker for the 1st District—which includes portions of Downtown, Central and West Long Beach—in the meantime to address any constituent concerns that may arise.
De la Garza said the appointee would not be able to place items on the council agenda or vote.
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