The impending retirement of Representative Lowenthal could open the field for ambitious Democrats – Orange County Register
Next year’s congressional midterm elections have become much more interesting for the Long Beach area.
Representative Alan Lowenthal’s announcement on Thursday, December 16 that he would not be running for a sixth term in Congress created uncertainty for the strongly Democratic district he has dominated for the past decade, with speculation about who will attempt to succeed him already in cascade – especially on social media – and the potential reverberations at state and local levels that are already looming.
The Long Beach Democrat’s decision to leave the House of Representatives also comes amid the latest push to establish new district maps after the 2020 census. The final maps, due out on Monday, could move the 47th district of Lowenthal entirely outside Orange County, potentially eliminating well-known Republican politicians in places like Little Saigon and Huntington Beach – and making the seat even safer for Democrats.
It all amounts to what Chris Burnett, a journalism and politics professor at Cal State Long Beach, called an “early Christmas present” for politicians wishing to visit Washington.
“It’s like an early Christmas present for an ambitious politician in Long Beach,” Burnett said Thursday afternoon.
Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia was among the names almost immediately mentioned by political analysts after Lowenthal’s announcement, including by Burnett.
Garcia, who thanked Lowenthal for his services in a statement Thursday, declined to say if he plans to run for Congress.
But the political ambitions of the popular mayor are, at best, thinly veiled. In the last presidential election, he campaigned for then-US Senator Kamala Harris during the primaries, then ditched President Joe Biden once she became his running mate.
He is also friends with Governor Gavin Newsom, who campaigned for him when the recall attempt failed earlier this year. Garcia also has a campaign finance committee to run for lieutenant governor – the post Newsom held before succeeding former Gov. Jerry Brown – in 2026.
Rob Pyer, research director for the non-partisan election information website California Target Book, tweeted that Lowenthal’s retirement created “what may be a clear path for” Garcia.
But Pyer, in a Twitter thread, didn’t stop there.
– Rob Pyers (@rpyers) December 16, 2021
He also mentioned that current Rep Roybal-Allard could see most of her 40th district merge with the 47th – potentially forcing her to run for the latter. Congresswoman Cristina Garcia, whose current district includes Downey, Bell Gardens and Bellflower, could also be a willing candidate.
Another interesting option would be State Senator Lena Gonzalez.
“Also keeping an eye out for State Senator # SD33, Lena Gonzalez,” Pyer wrote, “whose Long Beach-anchored district overlaps much of the new replacement district # CA47 and is only operational. 2024, which gives him a free chance. “
Gonzalez’s tweet thanking Lowenthal – in which she hailed him as an inspiration – made no mention of his political ambitions. But she seems to have them.
The former Long Beach city councilor became a state senator after winning a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Ricardo Lara when he became state insurance commissioner.
Gonzalez represented District 1 on Long Beach council, as did Garcia before becoming mayor. If Gonzalez made his way to Congress, a separate political path could open for Garcia – one that leads to Sacramento.
Burnett, meanwhile, mentioned another possible candidate for the 47th: Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell.
O’Donnell, who did not respond to requests for comment, has served in the assembly since 2014 and generally enjoys great popularity in Long Beach, the largest and most important city in the 47th Arrondissement.
But Burnett, for his part, has suggested Garcia could be the candidate to beat if he chooses to run.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise to see two Democrats in the general election,” he said of California’s primary system, which is not separate by party.
“Garcia has name recognition,” Burnett added. “It may depend on who can raise funds to cover this (expensive) market.”
Garcia’s friends at the White House and the Governor’s Mansion could help out.
But if Garcia, who can still run for another term as mayor, won a seat in Congress, then it would create maneuvering over who would run Long Beach from the council podium.
O’Donnell could take a look at this seat. So did Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who represents the city council’s ninth district – and dismissed suggestions he could run for Congress.
“I don’t think that’s the choice for me with two young girls,” said Richardson. “I’ll say Alan set the standard, for all of us.”
But either way, it looks like a Democrat will take that seat, as it has for years.
The current constituency is 46.1% Democrat, 24.3% Republican, 27.6% independent. Demographically, it’s 54.1% Whites, 23.3% Latinos, 17.7% Asian Americans, and 4.9% Blacks.
But the neighborhood currently includes parts of Cypress, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, Stanton and Westminster.
The Orange County portions of the district combined, according to registration data, are 37% Democrats and 33% Republicans.
Losing those portions would only widen the gap between Democrats and Republicans in the district – and shift the demographics in favor of Latino residents.
“This is an opportunity to take a leap,” Burnett said of ambitious Long Beach-area Democrats, “to take a big, positive career step.”
It remains to be seen how the field ultimately develops and, for now, speculation is far beyond clarity.
One thing is certain, however: the race for the 47th arrondissement is much more interesting now.
Editor-in-Chief Brooke Staggs contributed to this report