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 aren’t sure what’s better: Staying up til the wee hours on election night binging on white Russians and Mega Stuf Oreos, refreshing our results page every 30 seconds while ruminating over who in the city we’d least want to party in a hot tub with; or the day after Election Day, when we slur with excitement over the results.
First, we say “results” with caution: In our list of winners and losers from Tuesday night, the county’s new voting system is without a doubt the biggest loser.
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Much has already been said about the long lines and slow machines; the county vastly miscalculated how many people still like to show up in person, like they’re posing for a Norman Rockwell painting, to vote on Election Day proper.
Another huge problem: Because the system has done away with the traditional precincts in which your granddad voted, in favor of more youthful and 21st century-sounding “voting centers”—where anyone can cast a ballot, regardless of where they live—it was impossible to determine throughout the night how many ballots were left to tabulate, never mind in what city or township those ballots are turning to dust in a janitor’s closet.
Beyond just keeping journalists up late at night—we may whine a lot, but we’re tougher than you think—this has implications for the results, especially given that voters were still waiting in line as late as 11 p.m. There was no way to determine whether 100 votes remained to be counted, or 10,000, in each race—and the margins in some Long Beach contests were as thin as a softball team’s worth of votes.
A spokesperson for the county clerk told The Backroom on Wednesday morning that they had “no idea” how many outstanding votes needed to be counted, nor did they know what percentage had already been counted. The update expected later in the day may include a percentage, they said. Then he cackled madly and hung up.
Mayor Robert Garcia and anyone who has anything to do with city finances will be doing much hand-wringing until then. The proponents of Measure A—an indefinite extension of the city’s sales tax passed in 2016—were among the night’s losers, even if the measure scrapes by (as of Wednesday evening it was losing by 29 votes).
If the measure doesn’t pass, the salaries and pensions of public safety personnel who were hired in the last four years—about 41 people—will be in flux. But the city will also have to absorb the cost of 108 salaries and pensions that are now being covered by Measure A revenue until the tax fully expires in 2026.
Measure B, meanwhile—the 1% increase in the tax charged for guests in local hotels—appears to be passing by a wide enough margin to call it. The money, an expected $2.8 million in annual revenue, will be split between local arts organizations and the Long Beach Convention Center.
We are positively giddy over this one: Robert Fox and Cindy Allen were trading off between first and second place Tuesday, and both are surely headed for a live-action Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots brawl over the next eight months, until the November finale.
The real winners, though, are the third and fourth place finishers, Jeanette Barrera and Eduardo Lara, both of whom had far less funding and exposure, yet still captured about 18% of the electorate, each.
Either could sway the final outcome with an endorsement. But, both being fairly far-left candidates, who would they support? A former cop and establishment favorite (Allen) or a well-off property manager (Fox)?
Since the current occupant of the District 2 seat, Jeannine Pearce, endorsed Lara, we think perhaps Fox should offer Pearce a job as his chief of staff should he win. Wouldn’t that be fun! (He may be way ahead of us: We’re guessing the amulet that dangled over his canary-yellow shirt on election night contained the vestiges of Pearce’s bartered soul.)
Allen, meanwhile, better throw a big hot tub party in her Aqua Towers condo for any supporters of Lara and Barrera who want to mix up a pitcher of Manhattans and live like a one-percenter for an hour or two at a wild Jacuzzi party with the city’s elite in, we pray to God, their swimsuits (note to God: We don’t mean Speedos).
(The Backroom has a hot tub too, and we don’t fault you for not knowing that fact as it was, until just now, a secret because we don’t allow guests very often, being, as you know, that we are an introverted ‘Room.)
There have been wild reports on the Long Beach Politics Facebook that Mayor Garcia and Allen, his longtime friend, have been tearing it up in the Aqua condominium building and frightening the residents. And by “residents,” we mean people who live there full time.
There will surely be many more Photoshopped pics of the two of them sitting in suds, along with deep analysis of Allen’s patio furniture over the next several months—and if you don’t know what we’re talking about, consider yourself lucky, and maybe fritter away less of your time on Netflix and fritter more time scrolling through social media.
This’ll be one to watch.
Wow. Dee Andrews, the “Son of the Sixth,” got walloped. There is no doubt about District 6: The incumbent and one of the longest-serving councilmembers in city history is looking more like “Sunset of the Sixth.”
Andrews’ election night party Tuesday—held in the 5th District, no less—was a ghost town by 10:30 p.m. There were more tumbleweeds than celebrants.
Meanwhile Suely Saro—perhaps the evening’s biggest winner—was smiling and snapping pictures with her supporters after capturing an impressive 44% of the vote—nearly enough, but probably not enough, to avoid a runoff.
Along with the Robert Fox showing in CD2, the District 8 race left no doubt that the fun-loving Long Beach Reform Coalition made an impact this election season. Their pick in this race was Juan Ovalle, who was in second place until early Wednesday morning, when Tunua Thrash-Ntuk—who raised the most money of any candidate, in any race—edged past him.
All three contenders were fairly close at last count, with incumbent Al Austin claiming 36% of the vote, Thrash-Ntuk with 34% and Ovalle at about 30%.
The coalition “has made an historic, stunning, potentially decisive impact on the politics of our city for the better,” brayed Ian Patton, campaign manager for Ovalle and Fox, in a Wednesday morning press release that reminded us of an old, wise editor who once told us that “anyone who writes ‘an historic’ is an horse’s ass.”
Nevertheless, it was hard to disagree with the gist of Patton’s message, especially given the potential peril of Measure A.
Thrash-Ntuk may have helped herself by committing to the Reform Coalition’s pledge in the days before the election. But we don’t count Austin out—he’s a fighter who’s overcome some serious challenges.
Do we have time and energy to tackle this one? Of course we do!
Like a Viking funeral pyre of bygone days, so too, another LBCC Viking is about to float off in a flaming death orgy.
And that’s about all we’ve got for now. That sentence took a lot out of us.
(You should really read the story; it needs no further analysis from us.)
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