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So far, two Long Beach city officials have said that they will be running for the newly created Assembly seat, and both of them are casting themselves as candidates with cross-party appeal. Democrat Gerrie Schipske announced this month that she’ll be running against fellow Democrat Patrick O’Donnell for the 70th district that covers Long Beach and San Pedro in the June 5, 2012 primary. Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, who currently represents much of Long Beach, has said that she plans to run for the State Senate in 2012.
Both council members have acknowledged a few things that they have in common: strong ties to unions and emphasis on job growth and educational reform. But beyond the fact that they are both serving on the City Council, the two candidates have very different backgrounds.
O’Donnell, who is currently serving his second term as councilmember for Long Beach’s fourth district, emphasized his background as a high-school and middle-school teacher. He currently teaches government in high school and has prioritized K-16 education.
“I’ll be a very loud voice for funding when education comes up,” O’Donnell said in a telephone interview Monday. When asked about job growth, O’Donnell emphasized support for manufacturing, the port industry, and the arts.
Schipske is also an educator. Schipske teaches courses on healthcare law and human resources at California State University Long Beach, and she also is an attorney and a registered nurse practitioner. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Schipske said, “Our focus should be making certain that government is not in the way of businesses being able to create jobs because government doesn’t create jobs. Government should have policies and procedures that facilitate the growth of jobs in the community.”
O’Donnell said that he has cross-party appeal, which is especially important in light of a new state election law regarding open primaries. Now, the top two candidates in a primary could be chosen without regard to party affiliation. In theory, two Democrats could run against each other in a general election. So far, no members of the Republican Party or any other party have filed paperwork to run for Assembly in the 70th district, according to the latest information provided by the Secretary of State’s website at press time.
O’Donnell indicated that the open primary will now change who the people select, predicting that “more people will be willing to work together.”
“The extremes haven’t moved us forward, so what we need are people who are willing to work with two sides and find solutions,” O’Donnell added.
Schipske also emphasized her cross-party appeal and her reputation with the fifth city council district, which she says usually has a high voter turnout. And when she drew a comparison to O’Donnell’s district, she said her city council district tends to vote more often on the moderate to conservative side.
“To win this race, because this is an open primary, really it’s going to take somebody who is far more moderate,” Schipske said in Tuesday’s interview.
Long Beach’s City Council is usually set to see some changes every two years, since councilmembers are generally limited to running for two terms and since the elections will be held for the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth council district seats in 2012. O’Donnell was set to finish his second and final term in 2012, however Schipske’s second and final term was scheduled to finish in 2014.
Schipske had been a key vote with Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich on a number of controversial issues where they have opposed others on the Council. There was a battle over maps that drew new council district lines and another fight over whether the City should use its oil surplus funds to reduce the amount of budget cuts to the fire and police departments.
Gabelich, whose second term ends in 2012, said that she will not at this time endorse any candidate for the assembly district seat, however she did say that she would feel the absence of her fifth district colleague if Schipske leaves the City Council before she finishes her term in 2014.
“I think it will be a terrible loss,” Gabelich said of Schipske’s possible departure from the Council. “I’d hate to see the Council go back to a 9-0 vote just because the mayor wants it that way. Each councilmember has to remember that they were elected to represent their communities and each one of them has a vote. No matter who the mayor is, the mayor does not have a vote. And so I would hate to see it return to that flavor, if you will. It’s been there before, and the community does not benefit from that kind of politics.”
The Council may see changes in the other remaining council seats that usually are scheduled for an election in 2014. Third District Councilmember Gary DeLong announced in August that he intends to run for the local Congressional seat. In addition, a community effort to recall Seventh District Councilmember James Johnson has begun to collect signatures for its campaign.