Long Beach City Councilwoman Heading to State Senate After Beating GOP Opponent

Lena Gonzalez poses for a photo that appears on the website for the city of Long Beach in June 2019.

Lena Gonzalez poses for a photo that appears on the website for the city of Long Beach in June 2019.

Long Beach City Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez and Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle are headed to the California Senate after winning special elections to fill vacant seats.

Gonzalez, a Democrat, clinched her urban Southern California Senate district with 69% of the votes counted through Tuesday, while Dahle received 53% in his sprawling rural northern district.

There still are likely at least 20,000 votes to count in Dahle’s race. But his opponent, fellow Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, conceded after calculating he wouldn’t win enough to overcome the 8,297-vote deficit.

The results maintain Democrats’ 29-11 advantage in the Senate.

Gonzalez will succeed Democrat Ricardo Lara, who was elected insurance commissioner last year. She faced Republican Cudahy Councilman Jack Guerrero in the 33rd District, where Democrats have a huge edge in registrations.

Gonzalez has been a member of the Long Beach City Council since 2014 and led the push for the community’s Styrofoam ban. She campaigned on protecting California’s coastline and expanding affordable higher education and health care.

The city councilwoman also said Long Beach has felt the tug of rising housing costs, which is a hot issue in Sacramento, too, as lawmakers debate capping rent increases and creating more incentives for the construction of more affordable housing.

“I would love to dig into the housing discussions because I feel like I have a lot of input,” she said.

With regard to the issue of affordable housing in Long Beach, “we’ve certainly felt the tug and the pull,” she said.

Gonzalez added that she plans to take office next week.

Dahle faced off against a fellow Republican in the 36,000-square-mile District 1 that includes all or parts of 11 counties. Under California’s primary system, the top two vote-getters in a primary compete against each other in the general election, regardless of party.

It was a nasty intraparty struggle as both candidates sought to position themselves as the most reliably conservative choice in a state where Democrats control all the levers of power at the state level.

Their campaigns each spent more than $1 million, and the candidates sparred over attack ads. But the two campaigned on many of the same issues, such as opposing new taxes as well as so-called sanctuary city policies for immigrants in the country illegally.

Dahle, a former Republican Assembly leader, had the backing of prominent groups like real estate agents, peace officers and prison guards. Kiley’s supporters included backers of charter schools.

Dahle will fill a vacancy left by former Sen. Ted Gaines, a Republican who won a seat on the California State Board of Equalization last year.

While Kiley keeps his Assembly seat, another special election will be held to replace Dahle in the Assembly. Republicans are likely to hold the seat.

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