Hetty Chang, Kevin Dahlgren
Long Beach residents head to the polls to elect a mayor and five council members Tuesday. Hetty Chang reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.
Voters headed to the polls Tuesday in Long Beach to cast ballots for mayor and several city council seats.
Candidates are vying to replace outgoing Mayor Bob Foster, who chose not to seek re-election.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is considered a top contender for the post, carrying the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. But council members Robert Garcia -- who has been endorsed by Foster -- and Gerrie Schipske are also strong hopefuls.
A win by either Garcia or Schipske would give the city its first openly gay mayor.
NBC 4 twas there as both cast their votes Tuesday morning at separate polling locations. Both stressed the importance of access to education, public safety and job growth in a city where more than 11 percent of residents are unemployed.
"Public safety (is important) because without a safe community we cannot attract jobs," said Schipske whose city council seat is one of five up for grabs.
We all want the same thing and that's a better city," said Garcia, who, if elected would also be the city's youngest mayor.
Although crime is at its lowest rate in 40 years, NBC 4 viewers said they would vote for a leader who could curb violence in the city.
"I care about the youth!" said Sheila Willis, who moved to Long Beach in 1976. "If they don't have their education...the street will eat them up!"
Also in the mix to lead the county's second-largest city are businessman Damon Dunn, the Republican 2010 nominee for secretary of state and former NFL and XFL player, Long Beach City College trustee Doug Otto, businessman Steven Mozena, nonprofit executive Jana Shields, auditor Mineo Gonzalez and residents Richard Anthony Camp and Eric Rock.
The race will likely head to a June 3 runoff with the top two vote-getters.
Long Beach voters will also be choosing representatives in five of the city's nine council districts, along with a city attorney, prosecutor and auditor -- although current auditor Laura Doud is running unopposed.
Some 286,000 registered voters will cast ballots for 44 candidates during this primary, according to the city clerk's office.