Kawasaki Loses to Austin in Long Beach Council Race

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LONG BEACH — Lillian Kawasaki was unsuccessful in her bid for the District 8 seat on the Long Beach City Council.

With all 24 precincts reporting in Tuesday’s election, Al Austin received 1,960 votes (55.2 percent) to Kawasaki’s 1,527 (43 percent). The margin of victory was 433 votes. Gustavo Cortes Rivera was a distant third with 65 (1.8 percent).

Al Austin

District 8, which includes North Long Beach, Bixby Knolls, Virginia Country Club and Los Cerritos, is currently represented by Rae Gabelich, who chose not to seek re-election. Having served two terms, she was barred from being on the ballot again, but could have run as a write-in candidate.

Gabelich endorsed Austin in February, saying that he has what is needed for the job: “It requires a dedication to connect with all areas of your district. To connect with every segment of your constituent population — from young to seniors, from the wealthy to the 99 percent, from well-established businesses to the new start ups — and everything in between …

“He has talked extensively about the need to provide adequate resources for our police and firefighters, including funding a new academy, something that … I have been pressing for with my colleagues on the council.”

Austin also had the backing of District 9 Councilmember Steven Neal, former Vice Mayor and District 9 Councilmember Val Lerch, and former District 8 Councilmember Ron Webb. District 9 is also in the northern part of the city.

Kawasaki’s endorsers included Mayor Bob Foster, former mayor Beverly O’Neill, District 3 Councilmember Gary DeLong, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, and State Sen. Alan Lowenthal.

Lillian Kawasaki

While describing both candidates as qualified, the Long Beach Press-Telegram endorsed Kawasaki. In a March 20 editorial, the newspaper said, “She has experience as an elected official — Kawasaki serves on the Water Replenishment District board — and 35 years as an executive for various departments in L.A. city government. Those departments included the Community Development Department and the L.A. Port’s Environmental Management Division — a huge plus in dealing with Port of Long Beach issues. She is familiar with dealing with budgets and knows how city government works …

“Austin, a former top aide to State Sen. Kevin Murray and former labor negotiator, has the backing of police and fire unions. Voters ought to be concerned about his willingness to consider raising taxes to restart the police academy and his inability to give the editorial board an accurate answer to a question about the number of police officers currently on the force.

“The two candidates … have deep roots in volunteering, but Kawasaki has the kind of experience that makes her the strongest candidate.”

Rivera, a veteran and college student, did not actively campaign and did not meet with the newspaper’s editorial board.

On election night, Austin told the Press-Telegram, “Obviously, our message resonated with the 8th District … I think the voters made a strong statement.”

Austin and the winners of the District 2 and 4 council races will take office in July.

In a message to her supporters, Kawasaki said, “I am very proud of our positive campaign, met good people along the way and made great new friends. I remain committed to serving this wonderful community and city.”

Messages of encouragement posted on Kawasaki’s Facebook page included the following:

“When one door shuts, another one opens … Can’t wait to see what your future holds!” — Niki Brown Tenant

“The community’s doors are still open, even if approached from a different capacity. We’ll always be in need of the experience and positive spirit that Lillian represents.” — John A. Royce

“I know your partnership and involvement in the community will not wane. Looking forward to working together to make Uptown and Long Beach an even better place to live and work.” — Laurie C. Angel

“I’m sure the results are disappointing, but I know you will find other ways to help the communities of Long Beach!” — Michael James Brown

“You will go on to do something exceptional. Wasn’t meant to happen but it will all work out. There’s another plan especially for you … You did a fine job campaigning and your team did as well!” — Nancy Williams Foster

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