The race for three seats on the Long Beach City Council this year has all the makings of a donnybrook, with Nassau Democrats fielding three candidates who are being opposed by a slate, also of three candidates, under the new Long Beach United party. One candidate is running as an independent.
The Democrats will compete in a primary to be held June 22.
Additionally, a slate of three Republicans are also vying for the seats, but no primary is planned in the Long Beach GOP as of early this week.
The general election will be held November 2.
Candidates must now secure petitions to run for office. The petitioning process began Tuesday, March 2 and it ends on Thursday, March 25. Party leaders say more candidates may announce before March 25
The Nassau Democrats are supporting incumbent city council president John Bendo, Tina Posterli, currently president of the Long Beach school board, and Paulette Waithe, a Wall Street financial services professional.
The new Long Beach United slate is backing Democrats Leah Tozer, Bill Notholt and Kevin Heller.
Tozer is a Long Beach real estate broker and a member of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. Notholt is a retired Director of Wastewater Operations in the City of Long Beach Treatment Plant, where he worked for over 35 years. Heller is a senior vice president at an alternative asset management firm.
Roy Lester, a former president of the Long Beach school board and a frequent critic of city policies, is running on his own.
Long Beach Republicans are running three candidates, including incumbent city council member Michael Delury, a Democrat, who has run as a Republican before.
Jim Morarity, chairman of the city's Republican Party, said the other two candidates will be Daniel Creighton, an engineer, and John McQuade, who worked in recruiting and now runs the law office of his father, Francis X. McQuade.
City council member Scott Mandell, who is up for re-election, said he has decided not to run again, after having served three terms.
Council members Liz Treston and Karen McInnis are not up for re-election this year.
In the November general election for the three open seats, the top two vote-getters win four-year terms. The third top vote-getter wins a two-year term.
Morarity said he expects a highly-competitive race in November.
"We're running because we really believe we have the best candidates who will put forward the best ideas.
Bendo, who has been city council president since January 2020 and first joined the council in 2018, and his running mates, will be defending the city administration under city manager Donna Gayden, who in February completed one year in the job.
Bendo said in a statement that 2020 was "a year of major challenges, including the covid 19 pandemic, "uncovering years of fiscal mismanagement that have brought the City to the brink of financial ruin." he said also the council "had to reform a City government that was as transparent as a brick wall."
"We brought in a new highly qualified City Manager with financial turnaround expertise, have instituted numerous policies and procedures to improve City operations, implemented boards and commissions to give our residents direct input into City management, and now hold public working meetings, taking City business out of smoke-filled back rooms full of political hacks," Bendo said.
The city was hit with a huge payout scandal that was uncovered by the Herald.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas last year issued a scathing report on the scandal last year, accusing Jack Schnirman, city manager from 2012 to 2018 and now county comptroller, of allowing millions of dollars in "improper payments for accrued sick and vacation days to city employees when they left their jobs. No charges were filed against Schnirman, but the city has filed a suit against him. He has denied wrongdoing but said he will not seek re-election.
Tozer, who has run for the city council before, said in a statement, “Our team has the courage to make the tough and necessary decisions to help Long Beach reach its full potential. We absolutely must pass a comprehensive plan and stem the tide of indecisive city councils that are paralyzed by politics."
In a statement, Heller said, “We are launching a grassroots campaign -- we are not backed by any party machine. We each have unique areas of expertise, and we are unified in our desire to restore fiscal responsibility while enhancing the quality of life for Long Beach residents.
Lester, a bankruptcy attorney, is a well-known figure at Long Beach city council meetings, whether live or virtual.
He said in a statement, "Anyone who drives down the street or gets water from the tap knows our infrastructure is in need of some very costly repairs. We just had a $131 million judgment handed against us - the result of a decades-old lawsuit," he said, referring to a lawsuit filed by a developer who won a judgment from a State Supreme Court. "We are living off borrowed money and increasing taxes and, as a public, we are not presented with any concrete vision for a better Long Beach. As we are so frequently reminded “it’s the fault of the prior administration." I have been in Long Beach for a very long time and cannot remember any administration that did not use that mantra. But the truth is the excuse does not equal not being broke! Enough with the excuses," Lester said.