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Long Beach Democrat factions rush to get ballot signatures

Two separate slates of Long Beach Democrats could be headed for a City Council primary as they both rush to gather signatures by next month’s deadline to make the ballot.

The Long Beach Democratic Committee has split into two factions, with one side supporting two incumbents and a West End community leader and the other group backing the party’s nominated slate of newcomers.

The committee unanimously nominated challengers Barbara Bernardino, Joe Miccio and Runnie Myles at the Nassau County Democratic Convention last month.

But Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs and other Long Beach committee members said they didn’t support that ticket.

Jacobs unveiled a new ticket, featuring council members Scott Mandel, Chumi Diamond, and West End Neighbors President John Bendo. The new ticket is backed by the other half of the Long Beach Democrats, the Long Beach Independent Democrats and the Nassau County party.

Each candidate must collect 500 signatures to qualify for the ballot by July 13.

The slate of challengers said they are running on a “residents first” platform that opposes the county’s influence and spending. The candidates said they will focus their campaign opposing overdevelopment such as the “super block” proposal, services lost from the Long Beach Medical Center and maintaining zoning regulations in the city’s comprehensive plan.

“We might fight amongst ourselves, but the last thing we want to hear is someone outside the city is going to control what’s happening in the city,” said Denis Kelly, a leader of the challengers faction.

Jacobs said an incumbent ticket was formed to unite the majority of the party and compromise with the selection of Bendo, an Independent. Mandel has served on the council since 2012; Diamond was appointed in February.

“There was a breakaway faction that wants to go its own way,” Jacobs said. “I think it’ll be a tough battle. ... The group that includes incumbents is focusing on the success Democrats have had in turning the fiscal picture around and helping rebuild Long Beach after Sandy.”

Democrats have controlled all five seats on the City Council since 2012, but the eventual ticket will face a Republican slate in November: Democrat Leah Tozer has joined Republican nominees Christopher Jones and William Haas.

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