Fifth District Incumbent Stacy Mungo poses with supporters after initial returns indicated she would be victorious Tuesday night. Photo: Jason Ruiz

The shape of the Long Beach City Council for at least the next two years was ironed out Tuesday night as incumbents Stacy Mungo and Roberto Uranga defeated challengers to maintain their seats for another four years.

Mungo, who represents the city’s Fifth District which includes Long Beach Airport and areas east of it, bested former Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Rich Dines by a 53-46 percent margin. Uranga held onto his Seventh District council seat by a similar tally as Mungo in defeating challenger Jared Milrad and will represent the city’s westside residents through 2022. Dr. Juan Benitez was victorious in the only other race in the city in taking the last vacant Long Beach Unified School District board position by winning 63 percent of that vote.

A clear picture of who would emerge victorious in the city’s races did not emerge until the early hours of Wednesday when the county put out a conclusive update with all precincts reporting just after 2:00AM.

Mungo, though, seemed confident that she would win early in the night after the initial vote tallies were updated by the county clerk and said that her victory was attributable to her campaign’s groundwork and her track record with residents and neighborhood associations of being honest and responsive to their needs.

“When we knock on doors we hear people say ‘I’m really appreciative that you answered my call, and I really appreciate that you were honest with me about whether something was or wasn’t going to be fixed’,” Mungo said. “While politicians may say ‘yes, that’s on the list’, making false promises isn’t something your neighbor will do. I’ve lived here, and I’m going to live here for a very long time so I’m not going to say things and make promises I can’t deliver on.”

City Auditor Says Fifth District Mailers “Inaccurate,” Misrepresent Findings From 2014 Audit

Both races were marked with plenty of mudslinging in recent weeks with the candidates having their credentials challenged, their attendance criticized and the list of endorsements used as campaign fodder.

The victories by Mungo and Uranga solidify the council that has been intact since 2014 at least for the next two years when their council colleagues in even-numbered districts will potentially face re-election bids.

Uranga’s margin of victory was closer with roughly half the amount of voters showing up to vote in the Seventh District race than the number that turned out in the Fifth District. Uranga’s margin as of Wednesday morning was about 370 votes as he defeated a political newcomer in Milrad who attacked Uranga’s voting record stating that the councilman, who missed multiple meetings to serve on the California Coastal Commission, was an absentee councilman.

Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga celebrating winning a second term in office with supporters. Photo: Stephanie Rivera 

“I want to thank my supporters who put their trust in me for another four years,” Uranga said in statement to the Post. “I also want to thank my family, my team, and our volunteers who put every drop of sweat into this election, and in the end, the truth spoke for itself. I am very happy with the results and look forward to certification in a few weeks.”

The other race that was decided Tuesday night was for the lone open seat on the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education in which Dr. Juan Benitez, a professor at Cal State Long Beach, defeated Cesar Armendariz by a 62-37 percent margin. Benitez becomes the first Latino member of the board in nearly 25 years and will begin his term along with the other victorious candidates after swearing-in ceremonies this summer.

Benitez said his first efforts will be focused on making sure that students, especially those who need more help to succeed, are supported properly, a main platform of his campaign.

“We’ll be looking at ways that we can address our opportunity gap here in Long Beach, looking at how our students are supported and making sure that their social and emotional wellbeing is at the top of our priorities, especially for our most vulnerable students,” Benitez said. “Parents and community members are allies in our educational endeavor and I think we can do better. We have a strong school district, I just think we can do better.”

The time it took to learn the outcomes of Long Beach races was abnormally long and added to the troubles faced by the county clerk’s office that started early Tuesday when news broke that nearly 120,000 county voters were accidentally scrubbed from voter rolls. People who were affected by this, including those in Long Beach, were told that they could fill out provisional ballots but it’s unclear how many that showed up to polls actually ended up voting provisionally.

One Candidate’s Voting Record and Another’s Campaign Tactics Under Fire As June Vote Nears

Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder Clerk Dean Logan faced questions Wednesday morning during the county’s board of supervisors meeting. Logan confirmed that there was no way of knowing whether each person that did show up to vote ended up voting, as there is no pre-check in system at polling stations, but said that he had a “high level of confidence” that poll workers did offer each person a provisional ballot as it was standard procedure in any election.

However, some supervisors shared complaints logged with their offices where it appeared that standard operating procedures may not have been followed. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said that her health deputy had tried to vote at their normal polling place and after being told they were not on the rolls and should try to vote at a different location had to ask for a provisional ballot five times before being supplied with one.

Kuehl also stated that a number of complaints regarding Spanish speaking voters not having access to Spanish speaking poll workers were also called into her office.

She was joined by the rest of the supervisors in demanding a deep dive into the issue and for a report on how such a gaffe could be prevented in future elections.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.