In Closed Session

One of the more enjoyable post-election pastimes — certainly more enjoyable than filing lawsuits — is a game called "What If."

Okay, I just decided it was a formal game. But lots of political wonks indulge.

In order to play the game, you have to have winners and losers from the election. For the purposes of this column, I'm going to take the bold leap and say the national election results are legit, and it will be President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris taking the oath on Jan. 20.

In Long Beach, that result immediately turns the spotlight to Mayor Robert Garcia. He made a concerted effort to get close to Biden, and an even more concerted effort to hitch his star to Harris. Remember, Garcia endorsed Harris for president before he endorsed Biden.

What some people might not recall is Garcia's strong support for Gavin Newsom a couple of years ago when Newsom was running for governor. After hitching his star to Newsom early on, Garcia has continued to cultivate the relationship — to Long Beach's benefit, by the way.

That connection's important because Newsom has the job of appointing a replacement for Harris in the U.S. Senate. Being a Senator is coveted for a number of reasons — six-year terms, power as one of only two California representatives in that body, the perks and realities of power.

In other words, it's a big deal.

In the normal scheme of things, a mayor, any mayor, would be unlikely to have any chance at an appointment. But there's nothing normal about the world these days, and Garcia has been anointed among the top candidates for the job.

His profile — young, Hispanic, gay, an immigrant — would allow Newsom to continue this string of firsts started by Harris's election. He might be too progressive (read left) for Biden, but his credentials fit well with Harris and Newsom.

But what if Newsom goes another route, and appoints a Democrat with a higher political persona, like a Congresswoman, or a Secretary of State or a state Attorney General?

There's still a good chance that Garcia might be packing his bags for D.C. It undoubtedly would take a pretty plum job offer from Biden or Harris. But that offer is a definite possibility. For example, Garcia promotes himself as an educator. Could he turn down a job as maybe Undersecretary of Education? (Secretary would seem to be quite a reach, even if people are talking about Garcia's buddy LA Mayor Eric Garcetti as Secretary of Transportation.)

So what if Garcia steps down?

Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews is the current vice mayor, but he leaves the Council next month. Then the council (including the new members) will choose another and he or she would step into the mayor's office (minus the veto power). It's no secret that Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson wants to be mayor some day, and he was vice mayor 2016-98, and getting back in would just accelerate his timetable.

But the new vice mayor would be only a temporary caretaker of the office. According to the charter, a special election for mayor would have to be called within 60 days. Better than that, the election has to take place within 120 days after the mayor leaves.

It should come as no surprise that other people are very interested in being Long Beach's next mayor, too. She hasn't said anything, but Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price often is mentioned. And Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell has made it known he would be open to coming home full time as mayor. 

Undoubtedly, there are other people not in office now who would make a run at shaking up City Hall should the opportunity arise.

But in order to keep our what if game going, let's assume one of our current electeds get the chance to be short-term mayor (a full term will be up for election in 2022 no matter what).

If one of the City Council members become mayor, there would then be a special election to fill their spot. Ditto if O'Donnell (or Lena Gonzalez, for that matter) comes back from Sacramento.

So, should Mayor Garcia decide to move across country for one reason or another, there would be a cascade of special elections — at least one, maybe two. Would you care to estimate how much it costs to run a special election in Long Beach?

That's what.

Note: This column was updated to show that Dee Andrews, not Rex Richardson, is the current vice mayor.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

Load comments