Random Lengths News
Long Beach City Council Candidates Collide
Angeles County is a juggernaut, not just in California but nationally. It has a gross domestic product roughly that of Saudi Arabia on its own, and makes up 3.8% of the U.S. economy, the largest contribution of any county, and beating out all but the five biggest states. The county has a disproportionate influence on national politics because of this; in many ways it helps to set the mood for economic politics across the western half of the nation. It is for this reason that politics in the county matter, even when the city in question does not bear the county’s name.
Long Beach, second biggest city in the county, one half arbiter of the massive port complex, and the most diverse major city in the country, is once again in its election season. Its city council of nine has three of its seats up for grabs, putting a large realignment of city priorities on the table. Normally this would be five seats instead of three, but in district one and seven the race was secured in the June primaries by the incumbents. Incumbent Mary Zendejas secured over 50% of the vote in district one and incumbent Roberto Uranga did the same in district seven. This leaves districts three, five, and nine up for grabs with two candidates fighting it out in each come Nov. 8, though the latter two were almost won in the primaries as well.
District three is composed of the affluent Belmont, Naples, Alamitos Heights and Peninsula communities, the highly regimented Bixby Village, and the various middle income neighborhoods of the eastern half of the eastside, with Pacific Coast Highway forming the border of its most northern half. The class aspect of this race
is brought up because it sits at the core of what divides the two candidates’ policies. The race itself is remarkably quiet at present. In the primary it began with the most crowded field, and with no clear incumbent, it was quite hard to get the airtime needed to truly stand out in the field. This is reflected in the primary’s result where margins were quite tight, with no candidate pulling more than 5 points ahead or below their nearest competitors, and Kailee Caruso only beating out third place Nima Novin by less than 100 votes.
With only Caruso and Kristina Duggan remaining, the contrast between the two becomes more evident, with the two breaking from each other quite hard along political rifts all too common in urban LA county politics. Duggan falls incredibly neatly into the tradition of the reactionary / conservative Democrat, with policy brethren in the likes of LA mayoral candidate Rick Caruso and City Councilman Joe Buscaino. Contrasting this is Long Beach’s Kailee Caruso, who unlike Brentwood’s Rick, also fits quite comfortably into a niche, this time along the progressive strain.
In policy terms she falls somewhere between the likes of LA mayoral candidate Karen Bass and LA city controller candidate Kenneth Mejia, skewing moderate reformist. The big break between the two is what seems to be the big three of politics in the county: housing costs, unhoused neighbors and the power and money we collectively allocate to the police. Caruso wants to increase housing supply and potentially legislate against rent gouging, she basically tows the current line on unhoused people, pushing for basic shelter and transitional living, not really shaking the boat much there, however on police she is slightly novel, advocating for the idea of tackling the sources of crime, such as housing, health, and job stability, rather than pumping even more money into police departments.
Where Caruso is fairly bog standard, Duggan plays the part of a subtle hardliner, dressing up hard positions behind modest language. The best example of this is her stance on the city building more housing. Duggan has argued for a process that would grant local businesses, neighborhood character and oversight committees an active role, as she said in her interview with the Long Beach Post. Such oversight groups in wealthier neighborhoods are known for their willingness to block any new construction.
Local business does seem to sit at the heart of her campaign, to the point where it’s one of only three policy pillars on her website, the others being policing and the unhoused. As the selftitled owner of such businesses, it’s not hard to imagine why she centers around small business advocacy.
On the unhoused she is much the same as Caruso, but more upfront in the call to enforce anti-camping rules, not really expounding on where they should go instead. As for the police she says the city must maximize its tight budget, but that in the long term their budget and number of officers needs to be increased.
If these two were running in a different district, under different conditions, it would be fairly safe to call Kailee Caruso the favored candidate. However, looking at District three, the high wealth and whiteness of it hint at a voting pattern more in line with the conservative Democrats of places like the valley, or indeed the western most tip of San Pedro into Palos Verdes. This combined with the relatively low intensity campaigning and the packed primary, means that no candidate appears a clear favorite now.
District five and its neighborhoods are largely a product of the ’20s to ’50s era of subdivisions, stereotypical suburbia in many ways, but with the large Long Beach Airport straddled neatly in between them all. Neighborhoods of five include California Heights, Bixby Knolls, South of Conant, Plaza, Rancho Estates, Lakewood Village, Los Cerritos, Carson Park and tiny Old Lakewood City. Five is an upper middle income neighborhood, with wealth around $70,000 to $100,000 as its yearly average. While District five is majority white, it is not uniformly so across all neighborhoods in District five. The district becomes more racially and ethnically diverse from the airport to California Heights, Bixby Knolls, and Los Cerritos. To understand the politics and voting behavior of a place, it is always necessary to first understand who lives in place, and moreover who doesn’t.
Running in district five, fresh from the primaries, are Ian Patton and Megan Kerr, neither of whom are incumbents, but each with a history in the district. The primaries were quite skewed, with Kerr almost winning outright with 48% of the vote, and Patton coming in 18 points below at 30%. An 18 point difference would be considered a devastating loss in any general election. Patton is a landlord and political consultant living in the district, while Kerr has served on the Long Beach School District board twice and sits on the boards of the Los Cerritos Historic site and the California Conference for Equality and Justice.
Patton seems to be banking heavily on the suburban mindset, quite a bit of his policy surrounds empowering small business, police and anyone seeking to stop an increase in housing density or hold landlords engaging in rent price gouging accountable. He also prides himself on trying to cut back on city corruption. However, with his policies, it’s most likely that the corruption, if present, simply moves from public to private organizations. On unhoused neighbors his approach is a mix of carceral police-centered policy, obvious reforms that are needed, and a complete refusal for the construction of desperately needed social housing.
Kerr takes the more liberal approach, vaguer, but more centered on the most important step, making sure there is a home. This being shelter-focused policy, rather than again the long denial of very needed social housing, focusing on getting the unhoused an income via jobs training, noble enough, but failing to ask the question of why one needs an income in order to access a home, which is a basic need. Still Kerr’s approach centers around the unhoused rather than law enforcement, an act that sets her apart from far too many politicians in LA county. Patton’s policy on economics is entirely focused on the small business owner, ignoring the worker, Kerr’s, to contrast, is only mostly centered on the business owner.
While district five is a relatively new district, it’s still old U.S. suburbia. With an 18-point difference in the primary, it would be shocking if Kerr did not win. I could not imagine a politician who more embodies the liberal milquetoast policy of a LA County suburb, and while Patton certainly represents a long tradition of the more carceral, reactionary suburbanite, ultimately he seems doomed to obscurity.
The northernmost district, District nine, is fascinating. It’s a largely low and middle income neighborhood with a diverse makeup, largely Latino and African American. The district has no incumbent, with former councilman of nine, Rex Richardson and former District three’s Susan Price off to a closely contested mayoral race. The void left here creates, while not the most even, one of the interesting races in the city council. Here you have two incredibly well-educated, community-oriented and progressive women going toe to toe. Ideologically speaking, Ginny Gonzales and Joni Ricks-Oddie are the two most similar candidates running against one another of the races mentioned. What then separates these two is how said progressive vision is implemented and how the two candidates present themselves to the public.
Gonzales is very personable, she speaks no different than a random person at a diner or bus stop would. It gives her interviews and policy a very down-to-earth, concerned citizen feel, very refreshing to those who listen to politicians on the regular. She centers conversation on policy around family, and her own experience, which while relatable does lead to her policy proposals being imprecise.
An exceptional example of her status as somewhat of an outsider candidate can be found in her relationship with the Citizen Police Complaint Commission. Gonzales tore into the organization, calling it a disgrace, citing the legal battle between it and her, since dead, whistleblower husband. Gonzales continues, calling the current state of the broader legal system a threat to democracy. This relationship to the CPCC is especially worth consideration when it’s considered that her opponent, Ricks-Oddie, is a former member of this exact group.
Ricks-Oddie is another matter entirely, concerning her run, she is extremely articulate and specific. Her endorsement list is massive, including groups like the California Democrats, Rep. Nanette Barragán, the Long Beach Police Union, the AFL-CIO, former district nine representative Rex Richardson, and the list goes on. She is without a doubt the favored candidate, with 1% more of the vote, she would have won the primaries outright. With her policy this trend continues, it is progressive, yes, but it is also very by the books and very incremental. Nothing in her policy book seems to deviate from established Democratic Party doctrine in the state, with the exception of healthcare. A doctor of epidemiology, she endorses the statewide push for Medicare For All, deviating from the establishment politics that killed Assembly bill 1400, the bill in February that attempted universal healthcare at the state level. Still with a very safe, incrementalist, policy book at the council level, endorsements from nearly every establishment group one could think of, and an absolutely crushing 25 point lead in the primaries, Ricks-Oddie is by far the more likely of the two candidates to win, as aside from the humanistic element and more progressive outlook, Gonzales has nothing she can leverage against her wellendorsed opponent.