|(Feb. 1, 2019, 9:10 a.m.) -- 8th dist. Councilman Al Austin has announced that he has decided not to continue to campaign to fill the vacancy in the Long Beach-Huntington Park 33rd dist. state Senate district.
Councilman Austin's statement -- in which he conspicuously doesn't endorse any other specific candidate -- follows in full:
[Austin statement] After much consideration with family, friends, and supporters, I've decided to not continue to campaign for the 33rd Senate District in the upcoming special election.
It's not immediately clear if Councilman Austin's name will remain on the ballot along with twelve other candidates in the March 26 special election
[Scroll down for further.]
The action comes two days after Austin sent a mass emailing (Jan. 30) seeking campaign contributions for what he called a "sprint to the election" and over the past few days announced additional endorsements in the race. Austin's candidacy had been endorsed by Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, LB Councilmembers Suzie Price and Daryl Supernaw, former LB Vice Mayors Doris Topsy Elvord and Val Lerch, LB Airport Commissioner Wayne Chaney Sr., LB Chamber President John Howard, among others.
Councilman Austin's action leaves a field of twelve other candidates in the March 26 special election to fill the vacancy of now-state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who has endorsed 1st dist. LB Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez. With Long Beach the largest city within the district, Gonzalez also has the endorsements of LB Mayor Robert Garcia, LB Councilmembers Rex Richardson, Jeannine Pearce and Roberto Uranga, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Supervisor Janice Hahn, a number of other LB-area Dem electeds.
Other candidates vying for the seat include electeds from a number of SE L.A. County cities plus Dr. Martha Flores Gibson (who has previously sought LB-area elective offices). The full slate is now (alphabetical order, ballot order to be determined):
The top two finishers in the March 26 special election will proceed to a June runoff, unless one candidate receives 50%+1 of the vote and is elected outright.
It will be only the second ballot appearance for Concilwoman Gonzalez who faced no ballot opponent in seeking 2018 re-election in her 1st Council district but will now face voters in roughly half of Long Beach. During her four and a half years on the LB City Council, Councilwoman Gonzalez has supported downtown high rise development, declined to support calls by parking-impacted Alamitos Beach and downtown residents who sought inclusion of data omitted from a City Hall-produced "parking study" and has urged a wider distribution of low income housing across Long Beach Council districts. She supported the Civic Center transaction, voted to put the Measure A sales tax increase and Measure M utility revenue transfer/diversion on the ballot, has urged "equity" in Council budgeting for items such as park programming and sought (and received) Council approval to spend over $70,000 for a one-night Dia de los Muertos event in downtown Long Beach.
Councilwoman Gonzalez has supported management proposed/Mayor recommended budgets that haven't restored downtown LB's second fire engine (previously maintained in view of downtown density/high rise safety issues) or restored 186 citywide deployable police officers that the City budgeted and LB taxpayers received prior to 2009.
Residents of her north-of-downtown-WLB-Central LB Council district have experienced disproportionate numbers of violent crime and the highest number of LB homicides in 2018 (conditions LBREPORT.com has editorially called LB's worst inequity and an unjust "tale of two cities.") In August 2016, Gonzalez famously tried to cover LBEPORT.com's camera lens when we asked if she'd advocate budgeting more police than Mayor Robert Garcia had recommended.
Austin works for a public employee union (AFSCME) but angered other organized labor reps by voting against "Claudia's Law," a LB hotel workers ordinance that Gonzalez supported (resulting in a union-backed petition-initiated measure that passed in November.)
Councilman Austin began seriously pursuing the state Senate seat in the second half of 2017 when it was due to open in 2020 (by expiration of incumbent Lara's term) or possibly sooner if Lara won the 2018 Insurance Commissioner race. Austin, who was re-elected to a second Council term in 2016, raised funds to pursue the Sacramento opportunity.
However in November 2018, LB voters approved LB Charter Amendment BBB in November 2018 that now gives Austin the chance to seek a third LB Council term in 2020 without a write-in requirement.
On Jan.22, 2018, Tunua Thrash-Ntuk (the spouse of LBCC Trustee Uduak-Joe Ntuk) announced that she plans to seek the 8th dist. Council seat in 2020.
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