It was a blurry week for political optics

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. 

We stumbled out of The Backroom this week squinting into the bright sun, our shirt crumpled and disheveled, feeling like we’d been mauled by a bear. It took us a  brief second to consider why: A cumulative sadness had settled over our beloved city, a grief quilt of wildfires, a mass shooting and a collision that killed a family of three.

We went about our week, to be sure, picking up dry cleaning, eating waffles, laying around watching college football. A few of us imbibed; others went to church.

All of us thought about the landslide of political news that transpired this week, which would normally coat our soul like sweet nectar: Jeannine Pearce announced she would not seek reelection in 2020; Cindy Allen snagged a slew of endorsements; another candidate, Eduardo Lara, entered the District 2 race as Jeannette Barrera proclaimed herself the frontrunner; Mary Zendejas claimed District 1 in a special election; Democratic presidential candidates were dropping out of the upcoming Democratic state convention in Long Beach like it was advanced algebra …

Yet, instead of typing up this ravenous news and raising a middle finger to the basement bloggers and social media hatemongers that normally energize us, we called our mom and told her we loved her.

We avoided posting anything frivolous on Twitter; it just didn’t feel right. We wish we would’ve stayed off the social media completely, given what else we saw: A lot of our leaders behaving like self-centered children.

How about this? The day after a family is killed, maybe hold off on the endorsement announcement; cease the fundraising emails, just for a second; put a lid on your petty Facebook fights about who deserves credit for the demise of a politician; do not, DO NOT, post pictures of your girls trip to Vegas; do not tweet that you’ve been updated by the police department on the mass shooting just to look authoritative, when, in fact, the only update is that there is no update.

The people in charge of Long Beach—and those who hope to one day be in charge—didn’t step up to the fore in the immediate aftermath of last week’s events.

Many in the community, however, did: thousands marched, prayed and honored the victims. People both near and distant shared sorrow all over town. The gofundme account for the family killed in the Halloween night tragedy has now collected close to half a million dollars in donations.

It’s reassuring to know that there are still charitable and selfless people like these donors, many of whom gave anonymously, for doing the right thing at the right time.

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And the winner is … 

The people have spoken. All 608 of them.

Mary Zendejas became the newest councilmember to represent District 1, an area, as we and others have noted, that has seen much turnover in the last two decades.

It’s a factor perhaps in part explains why only 9% of the registered voters in Downtown and West Long Beach clocked in at the polls this Tuesday or licked a stamp and mailed a ballot.

Zendejas, the establishment pick, defeated six others to take over the rest of Lena Gonzalez’ term. She got support from a hair over 600 people, just over 2% of the registered voters in the district.

Even by special election standards, the turnout this week was dismal. When (now mayor) Robert Garcia won the seat in 2009 to finish Bonnie Lowenthal’s term, he won 1,077 votes; overall turnout out was close to 18%.

The fundraising was also notable. Zendejas spent $97,991, or about $175 per vote. Mariela Salgado finished in second place with 491 votes; she spent $26,330, or $54 per vote.

Misi Tagaloa, however, spent the most money per vote: he earned 367 votes and spent $77,200, or $210 per vote. The real stinger? Most of that was his own cash, as Tagaloa gave his own campaign $50K.

We wish Zendejas the best in her position, but Tuesday was no cause for celebration. The number of people who voted for her couldn’t even fill a high school gymnasium.


Among those who weren’t celebrating was also-ran candidate Joe Ganem. Clearly frustrated by the increasing role union money plays in politics,  Ganem wrote in a Facebook post that the “least qualified candidate” won the seat, noting her huge haul of donations and endorsements.

It was likely written in the hangover of defeat—maybe we wouldn’t have done it—but the response by Andy Kerr, one of the mayor’s brunch besties, was flabbergasting, and speaks to a larger issue happening in local politics.

Kerr’s riposte claimed Ganem’s remarks were “insults in misogyny, racism and/or able-ism.” We read Ganem’s post again and could only come up with, perhaps, “sour grapes.”

Kerr’s over-the-top accusations went way beyond Ganem’s bitterness over the donations Zendejas received from police, fire and labor unions and the important role they played in her victory. But to ferret out misogyny, racism and/or able-ism from Ganem’s short remarks requires a way outsized paranoia and unfounded sensitivity. Are we to expect Kerr or other Zendejas allies to haul out those same serious and harmful accusations against whatever future critics she may rile during her tenure?

Once again, let’s all settle down for a while.

Long Beach snub

The Backroom takes a back seat to no one in our excitement about the California Democratic Party Convention coming to town Nov. 15-17. But our glee has been somewhat tempered by the disappointing dearth of marquee names making the trek to our city.

It’s sort of like expecting to see the Lin-Manuel Miranda-led cast of “Hamilton” and finding the touring road cast coming instead, hot off a three-week residency at Bullhead City. We mean, still, it’s a great play, but…

Two of the three poll leaders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, are snubbing the California convention, leaving us with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Sen. Cory Booker and former housing secretary Julián Castro, all of whom will participate in a Nov. 16 forum, in which candidates will speak individually to present their case rather than debate. Also attending the convention will be candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar and San Francisco megadonor Tom Steyer, who may end up getting Biden and Warren’s spots on the forum stage, according to state Democratic Party spokesperson Roger Salazar.

Rusty Hicks, the head of the state party, was none too pleased—and expressed his frustration in a four-part Twitter rant. We can hardly blame him.

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