The Backroom: So you want to be lieutenant governor? 

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. 

The Post reported this week that Mayor Robert Garcia has formed a fundraising committee for a 2026 run at possibly the least visible and least consequential state office one could aspire to.

The role of lieutenant governor is largely ceremonial. The officeholder sits on or appoints members to the state’s regulatory committees (including the UC Regents and CSU Board of Trustees), serves as president of the state Senate and fills in when the governor is out of town. According to the Capitol Weekly, insiders joke that the job is mostly “get up, read the paper, see if the governor is dead; if not, go back to sleep.”

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The current lieutenant governor—quick, who is it?—visited the Post newsroom a few months ago, shortly after becoming the 41st person elected to the office, and the first female to hold the position. We had a pleasant chat with Eleni Kounalakis, the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, despite having to Google the results of the November election just before she walked in the door.

Contrary to some comments about the mayor’s ambition, the office of lieutenant governor has not historically been a springboard into the governor’s mansion. Only Gavin Newsom and Gray Davis have made that leap, and Newsom had considerable name-recognition before being elected to his former post.

It seems doubtful to us that Garcia is actually planning to run for lieutenant governor; the statement sent by his chief of staff this week essentially says Garcia needs a place to park his campaign money. We think the results of the 2020 presidential race, specifically the fate of his beloved candidate, Kamala Harris, will probably tell us more about Garcia’s future than this week’s news.

‘I’m just a popular guy’

And The Backroom’s most boring politician award goes to … Daryl Supernaw, Long Beach’s 4th District councilman. He puts out an engrossing Friday newsletter, which has become one of our favorite weekly reads, but his campaigns are one-man shows featuring Supernaw against…nobody.

He had a short and semi-tough campaign in the special election to fill Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s seat on the council against Herlinda Chico, now a field deputy for L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn. But in the soporific general election in 2016, he ran unopposed for the 4th and thus far he has no known opponents for the March 2020 election, while nominees’ fists are flying for the upcoming special election in the 1st District as well as for the March 2020 2nd District, aka The Battle of Broadway.

The Backroom got Supernaw on the horn last Thursday to ask him why nobody in the East Long Beach 4th District bothers to get out of bed to make a run at him.

“I’m just a popular guy,” he joked. “No. actually, I have no idea. I was talking to Dee (Andrews, 6th District councilman) and Al (Austin, 8th District) and we agreed that this job takes all your energy. It’s an awful lot of work, so that’s probably why no one has announced yet.”

We speculated that Supernaw’s fairly mellow district hasn’t been an effective incubator for a good gadfly or hot issue. In short, he has no Robert Fox or a Broadway Corridor.

“I have my detractors,” he said. “But I try to work with them before things can blow up.”

More plot twists in the 2nd

We reported in July that the Police Officers Association is conducting polling in District 2 for additional candidates to run against Jeannine Pearce in March 2020. One of those potential candidates, Cindy Allen, told us she is not interested in the seat.

Another name has since surfaced: John Thomas, 58, a local preservationist and Art Deco enthusiast who’s been active in city government, heard from friends that his name had been included in the poll.

“I’m flattered but somewhat taken aback,” he told us, adding that his name has been floated before, and that he considered running when Suja Lowenthal termed out.

Will he run this time? Thomas didn’t say that he wouldn’t, which would make an already interesting race downright fascinating.

Pearce, who is likely the most vulnerable incumbent, is being challenged by the formidable Robert Fox—who is no friend of the powers-that-be—and four others.

The newest candidate to join the crowded field is Ryan Lum, who, on his campaign website, describes himself as a YouTube advocate for lifestyle changes “that benefit people on a personal, local, and global level.”

The fields are growing 

The field, meanwhile, for the District 1 special election has grown ahead of Friday’s filing deadline. In addition to the six candidates who have already declared, a new candidate, Shelbyrae Black, is now listed among those seeking to replace Lena Gonzalez.

The City Clerk has no email address or phone number on file—a bad start in such a short election cycle—but Black does appear to have a website, which thus far includes about three vague sentences and some stock photos of happy people.

And Councilman Dee Andrews in the 6th District now has a fifth challenger: Sharifah Hardie, a business consultant with Punch TV Studios who has also represented the Hollywood Film and Acting Academy, Pit Bull Energy Products and Jordan’s Rooter & Plumbing.

“I have so much love for my city,” she said in a press release this week. “I want to help make changes now for a better tomorrow.”

Learn more about Hardie at her campaign website.

On the Agenda

The City Council on Tuesday will discuss a recent report on the fire department’s diversity (or lack of), including the possibility of hiring a full-time diversity recruitment manager.

Officials will also take on the thorny issue of automation at the Port of Long Beach—which is vehemently opposed by labor groups. Staff is recommending the city manager work with the Harbor Department to study the economic impact of employing more machines to work the docks, and support state legislation that would punt approval over automation projects to the State Lands Commission.

We’re guessing the city doesn’t want to wade too deeply into the issue, which pits the environment (automation is cleaner) against labor (automation would lead to a loss of high paying jobs).

So far the only terminal at the local port to use automation is the Long Beach Container Terminal.

View the full City Council agenda here.

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