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Runoff to Decide Long Beach Mayor's Race

Bob Foster, the leading contender, failed to win election outright. He will face City Councilman Frank Colonna in June.

April 13, 2006|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

City Councilman Frank Colonna faces two big obstacles in June if he is to overtake former Southern California Edison executive Bob Foster to become Long Beach's next mayor: He finished 20 points behind and lags in campaign money.

The five-way race Tuesday to replace Mayor Beverly O'Neill found Foster, 59, way ahead with 48% of the vote, but short of the majority needed to win the race outright.

And so Colonna, 62, who placed a distant second with 28% will have one more chance in the June 6 runoff election.

The mayor's race was not the only one that remained unfinished from Tuesday night's election.

Runoffs are required in two council races, and the votes were so close that it may be days or even weeks before City Clerk Larry Herrera can determine everyone who will be on the June ballot.

For the 3rd District City Council seat Colonna is vacating, telecommunications business owner Gary DeLong handily placed first with 43% of the vote but municipal finance officer Norm Ryan and attorney Audrey Stephanie Loftin finished only 35 votes apart, second and third respectively, each garnering 20%.

In the 5th District Council race, termed-out incumbent Jackie Kell, who ran as a write-in candidate, finished just 18 votes ahead of Gerrie Schipske, a teachers union lawyer who has run for other offices.

Both had about 25% of the vote. But with about 5,200 votes left to be counted, there may be calls for recounts in closer races, the city clerk said.

Although the mayoral race runoff was not unexpected, Tuesday's election did produce one surprise: the victory by political newcomer Laura Wilson Doud over longtime incumbent Gary Burroughs for city auditor, 57% to 43%.

Burroughs had been endorsed by the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach Business Journal and by the influential political action committees for police and fire unions. Burroughs and Doud are certified public accountants.

Doud, who billed herself as a reformer, accused Burroughs -- her former boss in the auditor's office -- of neglecting his financial oversight responsibilities of such city contracts as the Queen Mary lease.

Burroughs charged that Doud had inflated her credentials, lacked experience and erroneously said she had filed for personal bankruptcy.

Some City Hall observers said Doud's charges that Burroughs had failed to look out for taxpayers played well with voters feeling the pinch of city budget cuts.

Doud said she received a congratulatory call Wednesday from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick, whom Doud considers a role model and expects to seek her advice as she prepares to take office in July.

Other candidates, however, have several weeks more of campaigning -- and fundraising.

Foster raised more campaign money than the other four candidates combined, with nearly $700,000 as of last week.

A former Sacramento energy consultant and lobbyist and later president of Southern California Edison before he retired to run for mayor, Foster has the endorsement of the police and fire unions and the Greater Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

On Wednesday, he said he was humbled by his solid first-place finish and felt confident about winning in June.

He said his plan is to continue his campaign message about turning around a city of 472,000 that is presently divided between "haves and have nots."

Foster and Colonna say cleaning up pollution and traffic caused by movement of goods in and around the ports is essential to maintaining a vibrant economy with well-paying jobs.

But they differ on how to hire more police officers without raising taxes and still balance the city budget.

Political pollster Stephen Kinney, who has watched city politics since his days working for Long Beach resident and former Gov. George Deukmejian, said "20 percentage points is a lot to gain before the June election."

But Kinney went on to say that the 19% turnout in Tuesday's elections could be doubled for the runoff because it will occur the same date as the state's primary election.

A greater turnout could work in Colonna's favor.

A come-from-behind victory would not "be unheard of to pull off," Kinney said, "but it would be tough."

Colonna said Wednesday that he realized he has a daunting challenge in the weeks ahead.

But he said the less-crowded field will help voters focus on the difference between himself and Foster.

"I think we can still win it," Colonna said.

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