The June election is still seven months away, but Long Beach’s new political lines have already complicated some election campaigns — while helping open the door for others.
Long Beach’s Independent Redistricting Commission voted on new City Council lines one week before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 18.
These new lines will shake up the next 10 years of Long Beach politics and have already muddied the waters for the June election.
Months of discussion, debate and hours-long meetings have led to this: A new Long Beach map that keeps some neighborhoods connected and leaves residents of others feeling disenfranchised.
The new map has drawn out two sitting council members from their current districts, potentially setting Long Beach up for an incumbent vs. incumbent election in June. And for the First District election, some Latino residents there say they feel their voting power has been diluted.
But members of the Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission knew this would happen.
“It is impossible,” said Commission Chair Alejandra Gutierrez at the Nov. 18 meeting, “to make all the things we’re being asked to do in one map.”
Indeed, some appreciated the new map. That includes many in the Cambodian community, who celebrated a new shift that keeps most of that community in the Sixth District.
Residents from that district elected Suely Saro in 2020, the first Cambodian American to serve on the City Council. The new Sixth District keeps the Cambodian voting power strong.
“I represent 14 organizations and 3,000 who have signed to put the Cambodian majority together,” Laura Som, a co-chair of Equity for Cambodians, said at the Nov. 18 meeting. “You have done that.”
Other residents celebrated the new maps’ connection between Los Cerritos, California Heights and Bixby Knolls. Some at the meeting called for Bluff Park to be included in District 3, along with Belmont Heights and Belmont Shore.
But aside from which neighborhoods are aligned together and separated from each other, the new lines mean some council members have to make big decisions on their upcoming campaigns.
District 5 Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and District 2 Councilwoman Cindy Allen no longer live in their respective districts — and can’t represent them once their current terms end.
Mungo, in a recent interview, said she owns a house in the new Fifth District, but moving is a big decision she needs to make with her family. She has not yet decided if she will run for a third term, she said.
Gerrie Shipske, a former councilwoman who sought a third term for the Fifth District, officially bowed out.
“How can I run?” she said in a recent phone interview. “I no longer reside in what is now the Fifth Council District.”
And Michele Dobson, a Long Beach lawyer, also announced on Facebook she would end her candidacy now that the lines have been redrawn.
That leaves the Fifth District seat wide open.
Rich Dines, a former harbor commissioner, announced on Tuesday, Nov. 30, that he would run for that seat.
Dines unsuccessfully ran against Mungo in 2018.
Second District Councilwoman Cindy Allen, a former Long Beach police officer and businesswoman, now lives in what has been drawn as the First District. While she will be allowed to serve out her term until 2024, she could also run for the First District seat in June.
She has not yet decided if she will run for that seat, she said in a recent interview.
Lee Charley, who admitted to surveilling Allen’s home in the 2020 election to help the campaign of Robert Fox, has already announced that he would also run for the First District seat.
But that district’s incumbent is Councilwoman Mary Zendejas.
Zendejas has not yet served a full term — filling a vacancy left by Lena Gonzalez, who was elected to the State Senate in 2019 — but has a strong constituency of Latino voters.
Zendejas did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The First District, in fact, is a historically Latino district and is where Mayor Robert Garcia previously served on the City Council.
But the new lines now reduce the Latino population in that district from 59.3% to 53%. The proportion of Latino voters has also declined under the new boundaries, from 38.4% to 33.2%. The proportion of white voters, meanwhile, has risen from 42.8% to 48.9%.
With this new map, some Latinos say, their preferred candidate, Zendejas, could lose the June 7 election.
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“Mary’s the incumbent,” said Armando Vazquez-Ramos, a representative of the Long Beach Coalition of Latino Organizations. “She’s worth keeping.”
That coalition is also considering suing the city, Vazquez-Ramos said.
Still, he acknowledged that being a majority Latino city of Democrats doesn’t always mean you get your top candidate.
“We need to build from the bottom up,” Vazquez-Ramos said in an interview. “The challenge upon us is to get past this new barrier this commission has imposed upon us.”
Editor’s note: Robert Fox ran unsuccessfully against Cindy Allen for the Second District council seat in 2020. Lee Charley, who will run for the First District seat next year, tried to help Fox by surveilling Allen’s home in the run up to the 2020 election. Because of a reporting error, Allen’s opponent in 2020 was incorrect in a previous version of this story.
Source : https://www.presstelegram.com/2021/12/01/what-long-beachs-new-political-map-means-for-junes-election/1145