Candidates inch forward for LB City Council, mayor and city prosecutor seats in 2014 election

Sean Belk
Staff Writer

Even though the Long Beach primary nominating election isn’t until April 8, 2014, candidates for City Council, mayor and city prosecutor seats have already jumped into the race.
As of press time, 14 potential candidates have filed candidacy-intention statements and have registered campaign-finance committees. Candidates have until July 31 to submit semi-annual campaign-finance reports that cover the period from Jan. 1 to June 30.
Five odd-numbered City Council seats will be up for grabs next year, and, to date, only two incumbents have filed paperwork, declaring they may seek re-election.
Ninth District Councilmember Steven Neal has filed paperwork to seek re-election to a second term, however he has also indicated he may run for the 64th Assembly District seat being vacated by termed-out Assemblymember Isadore Hall.
Neal has said that he will either run for the Council spot or the statewide office but won’t run for both, causing a costly special election if he ends up winning both seats. Neal said he plans to officially determine which office he will run for by the end of the year. So far, he is running unopposed for the 9th District Council seat.
Seventh District Councilmember James Johnson has announced he is also pursuing re-election to a second term, recently launching a campaign website and sending out requests via email for campaign contributions.
Johnson said he wants to “keep Long Beach on the right course,” adding that, while on the Council, he has helped put the City in a more fiscally sound position through focusing on pension reform and pushing for critical investments in streets, sidewalks, basic services and tree trimming.
Johnson said he has also helped the City acquire a grant to plant 6,000 new trees in the Wrigley Heights community, while opening four new parks, including a dog park, adding there may be opportunity to create more open space at the 47-acre Willow Springs Park.
Johnson said he has helped bring forward a zero-emissions demonstration project for cargo movement on the border of west Long Beach, supports the Port’s clean-trucks program and advocates for a “green wall” to soon be built as a pollution buffer along the Terminal Island Freeway.
Larry King, a former medical-marijuana dispensary owner and longtime businessman in Long Beach, has filed paperwork to run against Johnson for the 7th District seat.
Previously the owner of 30 retail cellular stores, King first opened a medical-marijuana dispensary in the 7th district after his mother had contracted cancer, putting his life savings into the business.
After the City Council passed an ordinance that “changed the rules,” he then relocated the dispensary to the 5th district, however he was unable to open after the City wouldn’t allow him to turn on the electricity, King said.
King has since become an advocate for providing patients access to medical-marijuana and has filed lawsuits against the City over what he claims are personal damages and civil-rights violations, he said. “The system is broken,” King said.
If elected, King said he wants to focus on making the City business-friendly and plans to listen to all residents in the district about their concerns and needs. “In my 7th district, most people have no access to representation,” he said.
Fifth District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske is coming to the end of her second term and has indicated she will not seek a write-in campaign for a third term. Instead, she has launched a mayoral candidacy.
Three other candidates have so far thrown their hats into the ring for the mayor’s seat, including real-estate investor and former NFL player Damon Dunn, Long Beach Unified School District Boardmember and lawyer Doug Otto and Jana Shields, who is the owner of a nonprofit education program and has run twice for the 1st District.
Mayor Bob Foster has yet to announce whether he will pursue a write-in campaign for a third term. The only mayoral candidate to accomplish that feat was former Mayor Beverly O’Neill.
Meanwhile, two candidates for the 5th District have come forward.
Joseph D. Luyben, who owns JDL Packaging, a packaging-materials and office-supplies distributor, which he started out of his garage 24 years ago, was the first to file a candidacy-intention statement on Jan. 11, the day of his father’s birthday.
The son of parents who started the Luyben Family Mortuary in Long Beach more than 50 years ago, Luyben said he plans to launch his campaign website on Monday, July 15 and intends to start walking door-to-door to encourage people to vote.
As a lifelong 5th District resident, Luyben said he would be able to apply his knowledge of the area, business sense and community involvement if elected.
“What the people of the 5th District are interested in are they want their potholes fixed, they want their parks clean and they want to be more in tune with the fire and police departments,” he said. “I feel I can be the guy who can pull the whole thing together.”
Luyben, who has volunteered as a basketball coach at Bancroft Middle School and St. Anthony High School, said he anticipates leaving his business for the four-year term, working full-time as a councilmember, adding that he has no aspirations for monetary gain or seeking a higher office.
“Just filled with my heart and soul, it’s something that I have to do,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy but, in my opinion, it’s kind of a ministry.”
Stacey Mungo, budget officer for Los Angeles County Department of Community and Senior Services and president of the El Dorado Park Estates Neighborhood Association, filed her intention to run for the 5th District Council seat last month.
She said her involvement as a community leader over the years will give her an edge in the race with a strategy of “building better communities one neighborhood at a time.” Mungo, who will also start walking the district in coming months, said that “each different neighborhood has different needs,” whether it be addressing property crime or traffic issues.
Mungo said she has “successfully” organized the summer concert series in the 5th District and has also worked as a boardmember of the YMCA of Greater Long Beach as well as for the California State University system and private industry. She said she also volunteers and donates to the St. Mary Medical Center.
Managing a $130-million budget of federal, state and local funds that primarily goes toward providing services for seniors and workforce development in the county, Mungo said she plans to bring her fiscal knowledge to balancing the City budget as well.
“It all comes down to ethics,” Mungo said. “If every day you come in to do a great job and do what’s right, people will support you. It sounds fluffy, but it’s not just a sound bite.”
Third District Councilmember Gary DeLong is reaching the end of his second term next year and has not filed paperwork, indicating he will run for a third term in a write-in campaign.
Martha Flores-Gibson, who runs a home-based business called the Legal Shield, which provides members access to legal services and identity-theft protection, has filed her intention to run for the 3rd District seat and has launched a campaign website.
Flores-Gibson, who lost in the last statewide election for the 70th Assembly District seat that was won by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, said she plans to lure new businesses to the district and build strong relationships with various associations and community groups.
“I think this is a really crucial time for Long Beach, and with the 3rd District being one of the main components in Long beach, I really believe that we need to focus on the community and on the needs,” she said. “I believe by that we can lead by example.”
Flores-Gibson has worked at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services as a social worker before working for the Long Beach Unified School District to implement special programs to respond to various needs of students.
She said a strong business community ultimately leads to a safer community by putting residents back to work who are unemployed.
“I believe that we really need to build strong businesses that in turn will continue to grow the economy,” Flores-Gibson said. “We need to be about promoting Long Beach as a spot where people can come, spend, have a good time, and grow our economy in that. So it’s a win-win situation, and I believe that I can do that.”
Daniel Haro, who has also filed a candidacy-intention statement for the 3rd District Council seat, was unable to be reached for comment before the Signal Tribune’s deadline and campaign information was unable to be obtained.
First District Councilmember and Vice Mayor Robert Garcia has not filed paperwork to run for a third term.
So far, however, one candidate has emerged for that Council seat. Jason Aula, a political director of the Long Beach Young Republicans, a California State University, Long Beach alumni and Ronald Reagan Leadership Scholar.
Aula said he is in favor of upgrading the Long Beach Arena to NBA standards to lure a pro basketball team to the city. He proposes to pay for the upgrades through a ballot measure that would increase the City’s sales and use tax and raise parking-lot fees.
Aula also supports bringing back the 49er football ballot measure and pledges to increase voter turnout in the 1st District.
“I believe in small government, free enterprise, economic freedom, personal empowerment and individual liberty,” he said in an emailed statement. “I pledge to create jobs, increase the city tax base and pledge a business-friendly Long Beach.”
Other elected city offices up for the taking next year include city prosecutor, city attorney and city auditor. So far, current City Prosecutor Doug Haubert has filed his intention to run for a second term, while Rosemary Chavez, a Los Angeles city attorney, has filed paperwork to run for city prosecutor as well.
Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education and Long Beach Community College District seats will also be on the 2014 election ballot.

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