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The 2014 Long Beach Elections – Peering Deep Into The Crystal Ball

By George Economides - Publisher’s Perspective

May 7, 2013 – It’s May 2013, a full 11 months before Long Beach voters head to the polls to cast a ballot for mayor, city attorney, city prosecutor and city auditor – all four-year terms – plus for city council seats in odd-numbered districts, also four-year terms.

The Business Journal dusted off its crystal ball, shook it several times, peered into it deeply and saw voters penciling in names . . . Foster, Lerch, Colonna. What? Lerch, Colonna? We’ll get to them in a minute.

Here’s what the crystal ball indicates are the outcomes of next year’s citywide contests.

First the easy ones. City Auditor Laura Doud (who has yet to announce) wins a third term and City Prosecutor Doug Haubert (who has announced) wins a second term. Both have done a good job, so there is no reason for voters to change. Both should receive consideration as mayoral candidates for 2018.

City Attorney Bob Shannon is serving his fourth four-year term, and while he has yet to announce a decision, we expect him to step aside after 16 mostly good, solid years of service, with a few hiccups along the way. He’s often had to go toe-to-toe with council members who think they know the law. As most City Hall observers have witnessed, Shannon does not back down when challenged by council members, nor should he.

The crystal ball keeps spelling the name Parkin. As many old-timers recognize, the Hon. Robert W. Parkin (retired) served as Long Beach city attorney from 1978 to 1985 and was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by then-governor George Deukmejian that same year. But it’s a different Parkin our crystal ball is pushing: it’s J. Charles Parkin, currently serving as the city’s assistant city attorney. Look for Charlie to follow in his dad’s footsteps and be Long Beach’s next city attorney.

That leaves the BIG ONE: Mayor of Long Beach. Elected in 2006 and reelected in 2010, we “see” Mayor Bob Foster seeking a third term – this time, due to term limits, as a write-in candidate – and we “see” him pulling out a win in a June runoff when his name will be on the ballot. Foster’s leadership has kept this city on solid financial footing and we believe voters recognize that. Our crystal ball sees his third term as focusing on the exploding creative, entrepreneurial spirit that is embracing local businesses that, combined with our growing port, airport, healthcare and hospitality sectors, will lead to significant job creation.

Thus far, the mayor’s post has drawn three official candidates, according to the Long Beach City Clerk’s website: Current two-term Council member Gerrie Schipske; local attorney Doug Otto, who also serves on the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees; and Damon Dunn, whose website describes him as “principal owner of company that sourced, developed, advised, and invested in 28 retail properties across U.S.”

Schipske and Otto are well known due to their lengthy city involvements, but Dunn, who has lived in Long Beach about 18 months, is quickly making a name for himself. Most recently, Dunn made headlines in the Sacramento Bee as the former U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, held a fundraiser for him in Menlo Park. Dunn is also gaining recognition for switching parties. He was a Democrat, switched to Republican to run for California secretary of state in 2010, and is now an independent in his run for mayor. Isn’t there a song from a play that goes something like, “a little to the left, a little to the right?”

Any of the challengers could be the one going head-to-head with Foster in a runoff. But while Schipske and Otto may find fundraising difficult, it’s not expected to be an issue for Dunn.

Long Beach City Council races are taking an interesting turn as 9th District Council member Steven Neal may run for the 64th Assembly District (the primary is June 2014), and has told other media he would not seek the city council seat if he runs for assembly. Expect a decision soon. If Neal opts to move on, that opens the door for former council member, Val Lerch, to attempt to retake his seat. Lerch would run as a write-in candidate and most likely face Neal’s right-hand man, Rex Richardson.

First District Councilman Robert Garcia has yet to make it official, but we expect him to run again and to win in a landslide. Seventh District Council member James Johnson has announced for a second term and should win easily. Both men have served their district constituents and the city well.

No one has come forward, at least officially, in the 5th Council District, currently held by Schipske. But our crystal ball says don’t be too surprised if Schipske finds fundraising for mayor too difficult and decides to seek a third term in the 5th as a write in, which she would win.

Since Councilman Gary DeLong has stated he will not seek a third term, the 3rd Council District is wide open and may result in a surprise candidate: Frank Colonna. He served two terms as the district’s council member, then ran for mayor and lost to Foster in 2006. The district includes many of the city’s so-called “movers and shakers,” but no one with strong name recognition has come forward to announce a run. Colonna is certainly well known in the district and would be considered the front runner if he goes for it.

Now wouldn’t that be interesting? Foster and Colonna fist-bumping before each city council meeting? Our crystal ball is beginning to shake.

Look for a big run on pencils for the 2014 Long Beach election season.

(Note: if you wish to email the publisher your predictions, or tell him he’s off his rocker, you may do so at: lb.journal@verizon.net.)