By Nick Diamantides
Roberto Uranga is no longer seeking to be elected as Long Beach City Councilman for the 7th District. On Thursday morning, his wife, incumbent 7th District Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga, announced that she will seek reelection as a write-in candidate.
Uranga, who is a member of the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees, announced his withdrawal from the council race about two weeks ago. His decision to pull out came after his election as vice chair of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), a national organization that lobbies for federal legislation that will benefit community colleges. “I became a member of the board of directors (of ACCT) in 2007,” he said. “A vacancy was created this past summer when the vice chair did not get reappointed to her position as a local trustee.” (Only trustees of community colleges are allowed membership in ACCT.)
When the woman, who lives in Mississippi, had to resign as ACCT’s vice chair, other board members asked Uranga to run for that position. He did, and he won.
As vice chair of ACCT, Uranga is now next in line to be chair of that organization, and he could rise to the position in 2011.
“It is important to me to be in the leadership of the national association because I want to help take it to a higher level,” he said. “We have initiatives to get involved with colleges in other countries, and we want to make a college education more affordable to students from low-income households right here in the United States.”
Uranga also noted that one of the things ACCT is currently supporting is a proposed immigration-reform law that would allow foreigners to pay in-state college tuition fees and offer them the chance to apply for citizenship after graduation. “It’s a pathway to citizenship through education,” he said.
Uranga added that, while pushing for federal legislation that is beneficial to college students is his primary motivation for remaining with ACCT, he has another reason as well. “As chair, I would be the first Hispanic to head a mainstream organization of that nature,” he said. “When I got elected vice chair, there were a lot of wet eyes because it was a historic occasion.”
Reyes-Uranga said even before her husband told her, she knew he would be dropping out of the 7th District race. “When he was elected as vice chair of the national college trustee association, I could see that was where his passion was,” she said. “He was very excited about it.”
After he told her he would be withdrawing from the council race, Reyes-Uranga began contemplating another bid for the 7th District seat. “I had not thought about running for reelection, because I had assumed that Roberto was going to run,” she said. “But, soon after he made his announcement that he was no longer running, people in the community began asking me to run for reelection.”
Reyes-Uranga was first elected in 2002 and reelected to her second four-year term on the city council in 2006. Her current term will expire next spring. The city’s term-limits law prohibits her name from being placed on the ballot for a third term, but she is allowed to run as a write-in candidate.
“I am passionate about serving on the city council and there are a few things I want to see completed,” she said. The proposed sports park in the vicinity of Orange Avenue and Spring Street is high on her list of projects she would like to bring to fruition. Converting the oil operators’ property on the city’s west side into parkland is also a top priority. “These are two huge patches of land in my district that are extremely complex, and we have gotten so close to doing something productive with them,” she said. “I think that now, with the federal stimulus dollars, some plans under our belt and the support of the community, these are two undertakings that I would love to see completed.”
Reyes-Uranga, noted, however, that strong support from her constituents was the deciding factor in her decision to run again. “I have been getting input from community leaders ever since Roberto announced his change of plans, and it has been extremely positive,” she said.
In the history of Long Beach, no council member has ever won a reelection through a write-in campaign. “The only one who ever tried it was Jackie Kell, and she came pretty darn close,” Reyes-Uranga said. “Of course, former Mayor Beverly O’Neill proved that it could be done.” (O’Neill ran as a write-in candidate and was elected to her third term as mayor of Long Beach in 2002.)
Uranga said he hopes his wife is reelected. “She has a passion for service to her community,” he said. “There is much more that she can do, and there is no one that knows the district’s needs better than she does.”
Currently there are three other candidates running for the 7th District seat: Jill Hill, James Johnson and Jack Smith.