- Reporters Desk
By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
At a recent mayoral forum, District 5 Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who is running for mayor, quipped about her campaign strategy.
“Actually, I have two secret weapons: One, I’m No. 1 on the ballot and two, I’m changing my name to Gerrie Schipske-Lowenthal,” she said, nonchalantly. “Someone asked the other day… how I was going to do it. By Marriage, so….”
The joke resonated with the audience.
For the most part, there has been a Lowenthal — whether by blood or marriage — on the Long Beach City Council since 1992, when now-Rep. Alan Lowenthal sat on the council for six years. Since then, the Lowenthal name has been undefeated in the council and many people assert it now is synonymous with the Democratic establishment. Bonnie Lowenthal now is vying for the city’s mayoral seat.
While District 70 Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, former wife of Rep. Alan Lowenthal, says that, “The important thing is that someone with the experience and vision needed to lead Long Beach is elected,” and that, “The last name doesn’t matter, but my experience and dedication to the city does,” there might be some validity to the Schipske’s loaded words.
With five new council seats up for grabs, the 2014 Long Beach election may shift the city council toward a new direction, from the liberal who considers herself a community activist, Lowenthal dynasty to a more centrist Democrat coalition of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community’s golden boy, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia.
Garcia, who could be the first and youngest openly gay-Latino mayor in Long Beach, describes his support base as “broad and made up of people from every neighborhood.” With outgoing Mayor Bob Foster’s endorsement, Garcia’s statement sounds especially true, suggesting a coalition that includes the LGBT and Latino communities, —as well as moderate Democrats and Republicans.
While Lowenthal and Garcia only are two of the 10 candidates running for mayor, some analysts have pegged them as the front runners in the race. Signal Hill political consultant Jeffrey Adler, of Adler Public Affairs, said earlier polls seem to support that assertion.
Lowenthal has the virtue of her years in state and city government, as well as name recognition. She counts on the support of the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, her former husband Alan Lowenthal, state Sen. Ted Lieu, ILWU Local 13 and Los Angeles Harbor Commission Vice President Dave Arian, among others. Having served on Long Beach Unified School Board of Education and on the city council, from 2001 to 2008, she also has a residual support from those constituencies.
Garcia also has garnered the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Long Beach Vice Mayor Frank Colonna, Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club, the Long Beach Young Democrats, Honor Pac, the Long Beach Register and the Press-Telegram, among other centrist people and groups. Colonna is a conservative, the Long Beach Register is an offspring of the conservative paper the Orange County Register and the Press-Telegram is considered a centrist newspaper.
Lawyer Doug Otto, who has stronghold in District 3 — which has one the highest concentration of voters, — also has a good chance of making the April 8 preliminary election run-offs, Adler said.
Gerrie Schipske, whose District 5 also has one of the highest concentration of voters, may seem like a strong contender but she hasn’t raised much money, Adler said.
“If you can’t get your message out to voters, how do you know what they are getting?” Adler asked, rhetorically.
“She has not been able to communicate her vision to other voters.”
As of the end of March, Schipske has raised at least $75,963.77 in monetary contributions, though she’s spent more than $98,315.54, since the beginning of her campaign in early 2013. In comparison, Garcia raised at least $281,554.11 for his campaign, having formally announced his candidacy later than Schipske. Lowenthal has raised at least $274,934.
Entrepreneur Damon Dunn has garnered $534,231 in contributions and used much of his own money for his campaign, but he is virtually unknown in the political spheres. The fact that he is a registered Republican in a mostly Democratic city, also does not help, Adler said.
Ben Rockwell, a constituent who regularly attends the Long Beach City Council meetings believes the race is between Dunn and Garcia, “because of the monies they are spending,” though he would like Schipske to win.
“As far as I am concerned they are spending too much money,” Rockwell said. “I don’t feel Dunn has the experience politically …. I prefer Gerrie Schipske over most of the candidates. She is trying to put a campaign out without taking advantage of special interests. She is interested more about the welfare of our citizens in our fair city.”
Rockwell believes Lowenthal also has a good chance of winning. But some people believe that remains to be seen because she’s been involved in more state politics in the past few years.
If anyone has the potential creating change if elected it’s Schipske. She is known to fight for issues that other council members are not willing to address, such as transparency and conflicts of interest.
She is the one running against the status quo, Adler said.
“She is running as an outsider even though she is an insider,” he said.
But Adler does not believe the council will change dramatically. Whether you are elected to the council or elected as mayor, it still takes five votes out of nine to accomplish anything.
“I don’t get the sense that any of the candidates are looking for much change; they are looking for stability,” he said. “There will be a new council in terms of being a new center of gravity, but where that gravity will be is anyone’s guess.”
Rockwell is hopeful.
“I will just have to cross my fingers and hope that whoever gets into being mayor will be able to be more understanding of those who have difference with him or her,” he said. “Some of the council members now seem to think they are above some of the citizens and that they think they know better than the citizens do.”