Mayor Robert Garcia enters Congressional race, sets table for political upheaval in Long Beach

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced Friday that he will forego a third term as the city’s leader to run for the soon-to-be-vacant seat of incumbent Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who announced Thursday he would not run in 2022.

Garcia said Friday he made the decision to run for Congress to help ensure that the state and the district, which includes most of Long Beach and a host of other cities, gets its fair share of federal funding and representation in the nation’s capital.

“For me, I have an immense love of our country and that’s rooted in the fact that my mom and my family worked so hard to become Americans,” Garcia said. “So I’ve always loved our community and our country.”

Garcia’s departure from the city creates a major opportunity for other elected officials to run for mayor. Current 9th District City Councilman Rex Richardson and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell have been said to be eyeing the opening and have expressed interest if Garcia were to leave.

Garcia did not say if he would endorse either candidate.

“Right now I’m just focused on running for Congress, but we’ll see where that lies and who ends up running,” he said.

Garcia started out as a Downtown City Councilman when he was first elected to office in 2009 before taking the mayor’s seat in 2014 when he narrowly defeated Damon Dunn to become the city’s first openly gay mayor and first Latino mayor. He hasn’t faced a serious challenge for his seat since then.

There had been speculation after President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election that Garcia would be appointed to a position in the administration given his close ties to both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Garcia was even rumored to be in the running to be appointed as one of California’s senators by another ally, Gov. Gavin Newsom, when that seat was opened up by Harris becoming Vice President.

Neither of those materialized, and with the deadline to file for candidacy in the Long Beach mayor’s race just months away, rumors that Garcia was eyeing Lowenthal’s Congressional seat began to spread through the city. When the 80-year-old Lowenthal announced Thursday he was retiring after this term, it opened up the opportunity that many said Garcia had been waiting for.

Garcia said he would continue to fight for many of the things that Lowenthal had become known for championing, like human rights, infrastructure and protecting the California coastline.

He also said he would work to get California cities more funding.

“I plan to be someone that is amplifying and constantly pushing hard to make sure that California receives what it’s due,” Garcia said.

The new proposed Long Beach congressional district (left) compared to the current 47th Congressional District (right).

There are currently two Republican and two Democratic candidates announced for Lowenthal’s old seat, which has seen its boundaries dramatically change through the statewide redistricting process this year.

The old 47th District included several Orange County cities and was likely more conservative than the new district, which is now entirely in Los Angeles County and includes cities like Bellflower, Downey and Huntington Park.

Voting-age residents in the proposed district, which has yet to be numbered by the redistricting commission, have jumped from being 29.6% Latino to 52% Latino. The maps are expected to be adopted by the commission before Dec. 27.

The district includes the old district of longtime Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who has served in the House since 1993. Her office confirmed yesterday that she intends to run for reelection but did not say for which district. Members of Congress are not required to live in the district they represent.

Garcia said he would spend his final year as mayor focusing on economic recovery in Long Beach and helping bring the pandemic to an end in the city. He said campaigning for Congress shouldn’t interfere with his current job.

“Most folks know that I’m a hard worker and I work every day, all day, and that’s going to continue,” Garcia said.

An open Congressional seat could lead to big changes in Long Beach politics

Longtime Long Beach Congressman Alan Lowenthal says he won’t seek reelection

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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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