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Election 2022: Garcia, Briscoe will likely head to November runoff for 42 House district

Torrance Daily Breeze logo Torrance Daily Breeze 6/9/2022 Kristy Hutchings, Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif.

Jun. 8—Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has maintained a commanding lead in the race for California's newly formed 42nd Congressional District — setting up a somewhat surprising runoff against Republican John Briscoe in the Nov. 8 general election.

Briscoe's top-two status wasn't expected, with many having considered Mayor Garcia and longtime Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia the likely frontrunners ever since they announced their respective campaigns for the new district, which covers much of Long Beach and southeastern LA County.

Prior to redistricting both Robert Garcia, a rising star in the Democratic Party, and Briscoe were in a congressional district that included parts of more conservative Orange County. The switch was thought to strip Briscoe of much of his Republican base.

And the new 42nd District, entirely within Los Angeles County, is overwhelmingly blue.

Despite that, Briscoe was firmly in second place, with 29% of the votes, according to the election's semi-final results — though he was also well back of Mayor Garcia, who had about 45% support.

And for Garcia, who remains highly popular in Long Beach — LA County's second largest city — the results seemed to confirm his status as a prominent Democrat in local politics.

"We feel great, and really grateful to the entire community — not just here in Long Beach, but all across the district," Garcia said in a Wednesday interview. "It's really been great getting to know so many of the new cities and neighborhoods as well."

Although Garcia's votes have trended downward since the county's initial results were released — the registrar's first update on Tuesday night, which largely include vote-by-mail ballots received prior to Election Day, reported 50% of the votes for the mayor — he's maintained a strong lead over the other candidates.

Briscoe didn't respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but said in an election night interview that he's feeling confident that he'll face Garcia in the November runoff.

"I've been in front of the voters in Long Beach and Lakewood four times," Briscoe said Tuesday evening. "I think the election will come out with Robert Garcia in front, and John Briscoe in second."

Cristina Garcia, meanwhile, remained shockingly well behind the top two candidates — with about 13% of votes cast in her favor, as of Wednesday morning.

The assemblywoman declined to comment on the early election results.

The newly established 42nd District, the result of the state's decennial redistricting process, essentially combines the current 40th and 47th congressional districts. Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Boyle Heights, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, currently represent those areas — but both plan to retire after the current term.

Cristina Garcia portrayed herself as a natural successor to Roybal-Allard; much of her Assembly district, covering South and East Los Angeles, is in the new district, including Bell and Downey.

But Robert Garcia's supporters — many of whom are likely in Long Beach, where he served on the City Council for five years before being elected mayor in 2014 — appeared to have shown up to the polls in larger numbers.

The disparity between Robert Garcia's tally and Cristina Garcia's — not to mention the other Democrats in the field — would seem to dispel the notion of intraparty vote splitting.

John Briscoe — a longtime elected board member of the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, who ran and lost against incumbent Lowenthal for the 47th District in 2020 — had positioned himself as a natural candidate for the new district, as the only conservative voice for Californians in those areas.

But nearly 55% of the district's registered voters are Democrats, according to the California Secretary of State's website. Only 16% are registered as Republicans.

The other candidates in the 42nd District primary, all but one of whom are Democrats, were even further off the pace of the leaders. Peter Matthews, a longtime political science teacher at Cypress College, had about 4%; political organizer Nicole Lopez had about 3%; and hospice chaplain Rev. William Moses Summerville and political advocate Joaquin Beltran both had around 2%.

Green party member Julio Cesar Flores also had about 2% of the vote.

More than 400,000 ballots remain outstanding countywide, the registrar estimated on Wednesday, including conditional and provisional ballots, as well as vote-by-mail ballots that arrived on Election Day or that arrive in the coming days.

But it's unknown where those ballots are from and, with 5.6 million registered voters countywide, it remains unclear how consequential they will be.

Traditionally, those outstanding ballots are not enough to swing any but the narrowest of races. The 42nd District, though, is a fairly large jurisdiction, with 394,555 registered voters, according to the Secretary of State's most-recent report.

Voter turnout, so far, appears significantly lower than in recent past elections.

Only 46,519 District 42 voters had cast ballots, as of Wednesday morning. That's about 11.8%.

Countywide, the registrar estimated, voter turnout will be 14.45% once all of the outstanding ballots are tallied. That would be 24.5 percentage points lower than the worst turnout over the previous three elections, which came during the 2020 presidential primary.

Even the most similar recent election, the 2018 midterm primary, saw 29% of the county's registered voters cast ballots.

"There's a lot of voter fatigue out there. It's something we have to work on, we have to get more people out to vote," Garcia said. "We're going to continue to campaign every single day, and remind (local voters) how important it is to vote — our democracy is at stake here and we have an opportunity to strengthen our country."

Among the major issues facing the 42nd District — and the nation — are housing shortages and increasing homelessness, climate change, further recovery from the pandemic and reforming health care.

Robert Garcia has stressed his progressive policy leanings throughout his campaign, citing his work on housing, homelessness and COVID-19 recovery throughout his time as Long Beach's mayor.

Most recently, he spoke out against the U.S. Supreme Court's leaked draft decision to overturn its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, a move that would remove federal protections for abortion rights.

Briscoe, a longtime elected trustee on the Ocean View School District Board is on the other side of the abortion rights debate. He recently made incendiary remarks on Twitter against Mayor Garcia and Gov. Gavin Newsom, particularly over proposals to codify abortion rights in the U.S. Constitution.

His most-important issue, according to his Twitter account and his website, is the economy — namely inflation.

Briscoe, who ran for Huntington Beach City Council and made multiple failed bids to unseat Lowenthal in Congress, is also much further to the right than his fellow competitors on homelessness, immigration and health care, according to his website.

Staff writer Chris Haire and City News Service contributed to this report.

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(c)2022 Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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