Long Beach Councilman Al Austin enters race for new 69th Assembly District

Long Beach Councilman Al Austin announced Friday that he’s entering the race for the new 69th California Assembly seat, a move that could set off a special election to replace him if he wins.

Austin has served on the City Council since 2012 when he was first elected to represent the city’s 8th City Council district that included Los Cerritos, parts of Bixby Knolls and other neighborhoods south of South Street.

He currently serves as the chair of the council’s Budget Oversight Committee, which gets to prioritize how some discretionary funding is allocated before the city’s budget is approved before the start of the fiscal year in October.

Austin said in his announcement that he wanted to bring experienced leadership that will give Long Beach a voice in Sacramento.

“My wife and I have raised our sons here and it has been my honor to be an advocate and deliver for these communities,” Austin said. “And with my experience as an advocate for union members, I know how Sacramento works and I’m confident that I can deliver the most for working families.”

Austin, who has held a number of positions on regional governing agencies, currently works as a labor representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The 69th District, which used to be the 70th Assembly district prior to this year’s redistricting cycle, was opened up by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s announcement this week that he would retire from the state legislature at the end of this year.

O’Donnell had represented the 70th Assembly district since 2014.

Josh Lowenthal, the son of outgoing Congressman and long-time Long Beach representative, Alan Lowenthal, declared candidacy for the 69th district Wednesday. On Thursday, Lowenthal announced the endorsement of Mayor Robert Garcia.

Along with a new number, the new 69th district also has new geography. The district no longer includes parts of San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles, but now veers west into Carson. The district includes all of Long Beach except the 9th City Council district that is immediately north of the area that Austin represents.

If Austin becomes the next Assembly representative for Long Beach, his 8th City Council seat will require a special election to fill it for the remainder of his term that ends in 2024.

The election that would most likely happen in 2023 is likely to be costly for the city. Special elections for City Council races have routinely cost the city between $100,000 and $200,000, which the city would have to pay to Los Angeles County to administer the election.

The 2019 special election in the city’s 1st City Council district cost Long Beach $258,000, according to the City Clerk’s office.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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