With the Long Beach mayoral race heading to a November runoff election, an unlikely group of voters could have a larger voice in picking the city’s next mayor: Republicans.

Two Democrats landed in the top spots, councilmembers Rex Richardson and Suzie Price. But the lone Republican, Josh Rodriguez, finished third with 10% of the vote. Rodriguez, a police officer, had virtually no name recognition and almost no fundraising.

Rodriguez said Price, widely seen as the more moderate Democrat, has already contacted him and they’re expected to meet soon. If they can find a common ground, he’ll endorse her and encourage his supporters to back her in November.

In Tuesday’s primary, Richardson, who was backed by most Democratic groups and labor, came out on top with 42% and Price finished with 39%. Richardson noted that he bested Price even with very low turnout in his home district in North Long Beach, compared to the city’s highest turnout in Price’s southeast Long Beach district.

Detailed information on who voters chose for mayor in each council district is not yet available.

Richardson on Wednesday declined to comment on how Republican voters might affect the outcome of the general election.

“I’m going to work hard to be mayor for everyone but I’m proud to be a lifelong Democrat who stands up for issues that are important for Long Beach like ensuring our economy gets back on track and works for everyone,” he said.

Rex Richardson greets supporters at his election night party at Lupe’s De La Mar in Long Beach, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Photo by Sarahi Apaez.

Orrin Evans, a spokesperson for Price’s campaign, said that Price’s platform of public safety, housing and homelessness is not partisan; it appeals to all voters. He said the campaign was excited to continue work for voters’ trust heading into November.

“Votes don’t migrate; votes are earned,” Evans said. “Suzie is going to continue to work for every vote and listen to every neighbor in every neighborhood across Long Beach.”

The numbers

Long Beach is a solid Democratic stronghold. A map of the 2020 Presidential election results exemplifies that saying; just two voting precincts in the city (each with only one vote apiece) cast more ballots for Donald Trump than Joe Biden.

Richardson is viewed as the establishment party pick and a nonstarter for some Republicans, and Price, an Orange County prosecutor, is seen as more police-friendly, tougher on crime, and—likely—a more palatable choice for right-leaning voters.

“Even though she’s not a Republican, she’s as close as we’re going to get as far as being pro-police, pro-business and pro- trying to clean up the homeless issue,” said Ben Goldberg, chairperson of the Long Beach Area Republicans.

Republicans account for about 17% of the total electorate in Long Beach, but they tend to show up to the polls in higher numbers than Democrats (who make up 54% of registered voters, with the rest independent or other parties) . On Election Day Tuesday, total turnout was 17%, but 22% of Republicans voted.

Turnout may be key

Turnout is expected to be higher in November among all groups—but with no significant races at the statewide or federal level, how much higher is a matter of debate.

Statewide ballot measures that could legalize sports gambling and a new tax to discourage the production of single-use plastics could draw voters, who will also decide the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s race, which will feature former Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna, as well as the 42nd Congressional District, which features Mayor Robert Garcia as the likely winner after he advanced to the runoff.

Garcia will face a Republican, John Briscoe, and Luna will be up against incumbent LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has spoken out against “woke culture” and has veered to the right despite running as a progressive in 2018.

A pre-Election Day poll showed Price leading among Republicans by about 35 percentage points when voters were asked to choose between her and Richardson.

Goldberg’s group recommended Price in the primary, and he said it would continue to support her over the next five months. While it would be against the group’s charter to endorse a Democrat, Goldberg said Republicans must come together to keep Richardson out of office.

“We’re trying to keep DC liberal politics out of Long Beach and we must elect Suzie,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg is confident that Republicans will be able to mobilize and at least double the estimated 10,187 ballots cast by registered Republicans as of Wednesday morning.

A first-time candidate, Rodriguez used the campaign trail to rail against anti-police sentiment as well as a city-imposed vaccine mandate for its employees that he said threatened the jobs of hundreds of Long Beach police officers.

“All I can do is push for what’s right in the city,” Rodriguez said of who he’ll support in the runoff.

Both Price and Richardson expressed gratitude Tuesday night for the voters who helped them advance to the general election and acknowledged there’s a lot of work to be done between Tuesday and Nov. 8, when the race will be decided.

Price delivered an impassioned speech to the crowd gathered inside The Gaslamp near Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway where she celebrated her outsider status among “the establishment.”

“There are very strong forces that want to make sure that we don’t have an independent voice, that we don’t have someone who will stand up when things don’t make sense for our city and someone whose going to return a lot of political favors in the office of the mayor,” Price said.

Richardson told supporters that his campaign would continue to build on the momentum he hopes will pave the way to victory and provide him with an opportunity to create a policy to address the rising cost of housing, homelessness and public safety issues that exist across the city.

“I think in November we’ll have a choice between the two differing visions for our city,” Richardson said in an interview Tuesday night.

Editors note: The story has been updated to reflect Price’s direct quote about her status as an outsider among “the establishment.” 

Election results show Richardson, Price leading in Long Beach mayoral race

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