Mayor Robert Garcia announced Friday he is endorsing Councilmember Rex Richardson to replace him as mayor of Long Beach.
The announcement was made through a video posted on social media, in which Garcia said Richardson was “ready on Day One” to tackle the city’s biggest issues like public safety and homelessness. Richardson, Garcia said, would “truly be a mayor for all of Long Beach.”
Richardson is competing with Councilmember Suzie Price to become the next mayor of Long Beach. Both announced their campaigns earlier this year after Garcia announced he would forgo a third term to run for Congress.
Garcia is the latest big-name Democrat to endorse Richardson in the November race. Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and three-fifths of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors were among those who have already endorsed Richardson leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
Price has been endorsed by former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and a group of current and former Long Beach elected officials including State Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell and Councilmembers Daryl Supernaw, Stacy Mungo Flanigan and former Councilmember Dee Andrews.
In an interview Friday, Garcia said that, while he has watched both campaigns closely and has worked with both Richardson and Price for the past eight years, his decision to endorse was made within the past few weeks.
“After we passed the budget and wrapped up the budget cycle, I thought about it some more and made my decision,” Garcia said of the endorsement.
Garcia said that city leaders have worked hard over the past years to redirect city policy to address the needs of all neighborhoods in the city and said that Richardson was best suited to continue that work. He clarified that his endorsement was not communicating that he didn’t think Price could be a voice for the whole city if she were to win.
“We’ve gotten through some real serious emergencies, and I hope the next mayor continues our path to recovery and always centers really supporting people in our city that really need our help,” Garcia said.
In a statement, Price’s campaign said Long Beach needs a mayor with “her eyes on Long Beach.”
“With a $25 million annual deficit, an increase in homelessness, an increase in crime, and families struggling to pay their bills, it’s time to set politics aside and get to work,” Orrin Evans, Price’s campaign spokesperson said in a text. “Our campaign looks forward to delivering that message over the course of the next six weeks.”
Garcia has increasingly been absent during City Council meetings and city events over the past few months, allowing Richardson, who is currently vice mayor, to act as mayor in his place.
Most recently Garcia did not attend a 9/11 memorial ceremony, which allowed Richardson to deliver remarks at the ceremony broadcast on the city’s media platforms. Garcia said his absences have not been intentional, adding that he was at a congressional retreat during the 9/11 ceremony.
“Whenever I haven’t been able to be at something it’s usually because I’m traveling,” Garcia said. “Running for Congress is hard and taking me across the state and country.”
Garcia is also in a runoff race that will be decided in the November election.
Richardson came out of the June primary with a lead of 7 percentage points over Price, but it’s unclear how many more voters will show up to the polls in November and who they will favor if they do. Just 24% of registered voters cast ballots in the primary election, according to PDI, a local political data tracking firm.
Richardson secured 44% of the primary vote to Price’s 37%.
Conflicting polls released recently suggest that the seat could be Richardson’s to lose, or that the race is still highly competitive. A poll completed by FM3 and released earlier this month showed Richardson with a 21-point advantage after voters were given information about his endorsements and other policy efforts.
However, a poll released this week by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said the race is still in a dead heat, with about one-third of Long Beach registered voters undecided on who they will vote for.
That poll was conducted by Sextant Strategies and Research, which concluded that likely voters in the November election who did not vote in June favored Price by 6 percentage points.
The two are scheduled to participate in a number of upcoming forums, including one on Oct. 3 at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The forum is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and will also include candidates for City Council and State Assembly races.
Editors note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Price campaign.