California 37th District
With 465,000 people, Long Beach would be a major metropolis almost anywhere but in Los Angeles County, where it seems just the largest of many suburbs. But it has an identity of its own. Started as a beach resort 1888, it soon became a port when Los Angeles civic leaders decided that if their town was to be a world-class city, it must have a world-class harbor. Since nature had not provided one, they built it where the Los Angeles River flows into the ocean at the western edge of Long Beach. By 1909, Los Angeles had annexed the harbor towns of San Pedro and Wilmington on the other side of the river. Over the next decades, the two cities persuaded the federal government to dredge channels and build a breakwater and turning basins. Long Beach was developing other businesses as well. It sprouted oil derricks in the 1920s and briefly became one of the nation’s big oil producers. It was the site of major aircraft plants in the 1940s and beyond.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Since then, the Los Angeles-Long Beach port has become the nation’s largest, the fastest-growing major cargo center in the world, with huge steel-gray container ships pulling quietly up to enormous automated loading facilities—a 21st-century contrast to the rotting docks of New York and San Francisco. The length of three football fields, these ships unload a daily average of 19,900 containers, which accounts for 26% of West Coast shipping. From there, about half of the cargo leaves by rail in 50 daily trains along the $2.4 billion high-speed 20-mile Alameda Corridor to the large rail yards near downtown Los Angeles. But the recession hit these ports hard, and reduced volume by almost a third in early 2009. There also has been a big increase in cargo inspections since September 11, with scanning at the port of all high-risk containers. But with three major highways threading through the port, cargo security remains a major concern. Long Beach’s naval station was closed in the 1990s, and there were job losses at the huge McDonnell Douglas aircraft plant. Boeing, the new owner, stopped producing commercial jets here, but it continues to build military planes, although there have been fewer orders for the giant C-17 transport. Small businesses have grown, and Long Beach’s beachfront has thrived. The Queen Mary, converted into a floating hotel, is a big tourist attraction, and there is a glittering array of high-rises and a huge new aquarium along the beach.
The 37th Congressional District of California includes 80% of the city of Long Beach and Signal Hill, surrounded by Long Beach, where the oil rigs are still pumping. It includes the two industrial suburbs of Compton and Carson. Compton switched from all-white to all-black in the 1960s, and in the 1980s became heavily Latino and economically depressed. Carson, with recent subdivisions amid freeway interchanges, has a multiethnic population. The district includes the south end of South Central Los Angeles, including the Watts tower, where the riot of 1965 broke out. In 2000, the district’s population was 22% African-American and 48% Hispanic. But many of the Latinos are not U.S. citizens and were only an estimated 22% of registered voters in 2007. It is a heavily Democratic district.