With decades of public service under his belt, Democrat Alan Lowenthal ran for Congress as the local guy who could take his record of pragmatic problem-solving to Washington. And it didn’t hurt that the newly formed 47th District gave Democrats a 10 percentage-point voter-registration edge over Republicans and included a part of the town that Lowenthal has called home for more than 40 years.
Lowenthal was born in New York City and grew up in Queens. When he was about 12, the family moved to Long Island, where he went to high school. Lowenthal studied psychology at Hobart College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree, and he continued his studies at Ohio State University, earning a master’s degree and a doctorate. During his doctoral training, he had an internship in San Francisco and decided that he wanted to live in California.
Lowenthal took a position at California State University (Long Beach) in 1969 as an assistant professor and has lived in Long Beach ever since. In 1975, he joined Long Beach Area Citizens Involved, an umbrella group of community organizations trying to increase their influence in the city. He eventually became the group’s president, serving between 1988 and 1992. Lowenthal first ran for elected office in 1992, winning a seat on the Long Beach City Council. He was on the council for six years before snaring a state Assembly seat in 1998, and, in another six years, he was elected to the state Senate.
Lowenthal, 71, said he used his seats in the Legislature to force California ports to significantly reduce air pollution and do more to protect public health. “I was the legislator who, for 20 years, kept pushing them,” he said in an interview. “I wanted to make sure the community was livable and the port economically viable.” The 70-year-old counts cleaning up the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles among his greatest achievements.
He said he ran for Congress because he wants to deal with national issues such as health care, retirement, and Social Security. “I have a strong value that the society needs to invest in people, and it needs to invest in the future, and I’m the person to do that,” he said. “And it needs to be financially responsible.”
As a Democrat, Lowenthal started with an advantage in an area that gave nearly 60 percent of its vote to President Obama four years ago and almost 55 percent of the vote to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2010. Lowenthal’s opponent, Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong, ran as a moderate Republican who said he would not be bound by the decisions of the House Republican leadership, which is dominated by conservatives. Even so, Lowenthal did his best to tie DeLong to the Washington GOP establishment. Lowenthal’s campaign also seized on a comment DeLong made at a community event in which he said he had not seen scientific evidence that confirms the existence of climate change.