By Ashleigh Oldland
—Gazette photo by William Johnson
HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND.
Eighth District City Council Candidate Al Austin celebrates his election win Tuesday night with supporters.
In Tuesday’s election to replace outgoing Eighth District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich, candidate Al Austin won the majority of the 3,598 ballots counted — pulling in 55.18% of the votes.
“I thank the voters for bestowing their trust in me, and I am going to work hard to address the issues and concerns that are important to them,” Austin said the day after the April 10 election. “
It was a close race between Austin and candidate Lillian Kawasaki, who, according to the complete but unofficial tally from the city election officials, racked up 42.99% of the vote. Kawasaki, 61, actually had more mail-in votes than Austin did, but he garnered more votes at polling places. A third candidate, Gustavo Rivera, who never ran a campaign or showed up to public debates, got 65 votes or 1.83% of the vote.
Kawasaki called Austin at around 11 p.m. on Tuesday to congratulate him on his election win. The day after election day, Kawasaki expressed disappointment but stayed positive about losing the race.
“I’m proud of our hard-fought and positive campaign and deeply thankful to the many supporters and volunteers who believed in a message of a brighter future for Long Beach,” she said.
If she had won the election, Kawasaki would have stepped down from her role as an elected official on the Board of Directors for the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. She will now maintain that position, which she has held since 2006, and continue to represent Long Beach and six other cities in managing groundwater resources.
Austin, 43, who once had a career with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing and later went into politics and worked as a district representative in Senator Kevin Murray’s office, said Kawasaki is someone he considers to be a friend and a true asset to the Eighth District.
“Lillian (Kawasaki) was very gracious, and I look forward to continuing to work with her,” Austin said. “Actually, she and myself and Rae (Gabelich) all live in the same precinct, so we are actually neighbors.”
Voter turnout for the Eighth District was a mere 15.45% of the 23,285 registered voters in the area.
Both Austin and Kawasaki said they had hoped that voter turnout would be better.
“Voter turnout could have been a lot better, but it speaks to the need to take a look at moving our (city) elections to a normal primary schedule,” Austin said.
Before he takes his seat at City Hall on July 1, Austin said he would be working with the current councilwoman to begin the transition process and make the switch as smooth as possible.