Long Beach City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce will no longer run for re-election.
Pearce, who represents Long Beach’s Second District, told the Press-Telegram that she has ended her campaign.
“I’d like to focus on my kid and my health,” Pearce said in a phone interview. “I spent nearly a week in the hospital in August, so I think that just made me re-evaluate how I spend my time.”
The decision appears to bring to a close a high-profile City Council term characterized by an array of liberal causes and controversies. Pearce achieved significant victories for her chosen issues, like protections for renters and workers, while also facing scandals that led to an attempted recall campaign and a censure from her colleagues.
The election for the Second District, which stretches from the Port of Long Beach to Redondo Avenue and 10th Street, is scheduled for March 3. If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the race will go to a run-off on Nov. 3, 2020.
Pearce said she “absolutely” would consider running for office again at some point in the future.
“I definitely see myself back in office at some point,” she said. “That time just isn’t right now.”
At least seven candidates are seeking Pearce’s seat. Pearce said she plans to make an endorsement in the race at a later date.
During her time on the council, Pearce has been a steady champion of liberal causes, including efforts to protect hotel workers from sexual assault, bolster support for the city’s LGBTQ community and ease the burden of housing costs on renters.
But Pearce has also faced significant opposition, which peaked in a failed recall effort last year. The attempt to recall Pearce stemmed from what opponents viewed as a series of ethical lapses and an abuse of trust. Most notably, critics have called out a late-night incident on the 710 Freeway in 2017, in which Pearce got into a roadside altercation with a former chief of staff with whom she was having an affair, according to police reports.
The District Attorney’s Office later declined to press charges related to the incident, but her council colleagues voted unanimously to censure her for the scandal.
Ian Patton, executive director of the Long Beach Reform Coalition, led the recall effort.
At the time, he said the failure to establish a recall election was “disappointing,” but the City Council’s action legitimized his efforts.
“The censure validated our campaign,” Patton said. “And killed her political career.”
More recently, an independent review found Pearce violated Long Beach’s conflict-of-interest policy for failing to disclose sources of income and later voting on an issue that could have benefited one of those businesses.
The Fair Political Practices Commission, a state ethics watchdog, is now investigating her for the same alleged conflict of interest.
When that investigation launched in September, Patton reiterated his belief that Pearce should leave office.
“I find it stunning she didn’t resign long ago, given the endless shamelessness of her conduct,” he said. “She was nearly recalled and universally censured by the Long Beach City Council last year, and yet she only digs the hole she’s in deeper and deeper and deeper.”
When asked about her critics, Pearce said, “politics is not for the faint of heart."
“I’ve been proud to run on the issues that matter to (residents): affordable housing, worker issues, environmental issues,” she said. “It’s been unfortunate that there are some people that like to distract from those core issues.”
Until now, Pearce, who was first elected in 2016, has run an active re-election campaign. She filed paperwork indicating her intent to run for the seat in January and has raised a significant amount of money for the cause.
A campaign finance report filed in August, the most recent that’s available on Long Beach’s website, showed she had raised over $40,000.
Donors included the Long Beach Firefighters Association, the Long Beach Progressives and the Long Beach Collective Association, a nonprofit group of local cannabis businesses.
Pearce said she has no plans at the moment for her remaining campaign funds.
Pearce said she does not currently have any solid plans for what she’ll do once she leaves office, but she’s looking forward to her remaining time in the seat.
“Lucky for me, I have 13 months to agendize items and work really hard,” she said. “In that 13 months, I will be exploring what it takes to continue to support my community, just not behind the dais.”