Withering slightly in the August sun, Sen. Alex Padilla, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, Assemblyman Luz Rivas and Los Angeles City Council Speaker Nury Martinez gathered outside their former high school on Wednesday to support Rep. Karen Bass in the Los Angeles mayoral race.
San Fernando High School — their shared alma mater — has been an unlikely breeding ground for political power in the state.
The public high school of a predominantly Latin American working-class section of the northeast San Fernando Valley launched the careers of many current and former California politicians.
The morning press conference just outside the school gates was something of a homecoming for the chosen four standing with Bass. But it was also meant to symbolize their political influence and deep roots in those valley neighborhoods — and the Latino voters they hope to activate on Bass’s behalf.
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“We fight for working-class communities — communities like the northeast San Fernando Valley — and we’re proud democrats,” Padilla said. “And we each have a unique relationship with Karen Bass.”
Martinez, Padilla’s high school classmate, explained how the politicians who endorsed him shared a special bond, grew up in the community and came back to make sure those same neighborhoods “got our fair share.”
Bass may have come across town, but she shares a “laser focus on communities,” Martinez said, describing the congresswoman as a leader who cares deeply for the city’s struggling families.
With the contest to lead the nation’s second-largest city less than three months away, Bass and his challenger, Rick Caruso, have focused heavily on outreach to Latino voters, who make up more than a third of the electorate in the town.
Latino voters preferred Caruso in the primary, as did voters in northeast Valley neighborhoods such as Pacoima and Sylmar.
In Los Angeles neighborhoods with populations that are at least 80% Latino, Caruso got 34% of the primary vote to Bass’s 27%, according to a Times analysis. Councilman Kevin de León, who has yet to endorse a candidate in the general election, won 24% of the vote in those precincts, far exceeding his vote share citywide.
Given the relatively low turnout in the city’s Latino neighborhoods, Caruso and Bass aren’t just looking to woo De León voters and convert support from their opponent’s camp — they’re also hoping to activate new voters who have skipped primary.
This awareness has been very visible for both candidates since the June elections.
In recent weeks, Bass has been endorsed by the political arm of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles at a crowded press conference. She also joined Latin leaders for a “Las Mujeres por Karen Bass” event in La Placita Olvera and tied with local leaders at the annual Boyle Heights Taco Festival over the weekend.
Caruso’s recent campaign has included a meeting with members of the Latino Restaurant Assn., a Latino night for Caruso in Highland Park and tours of small businesses on the Eastside. His campaign also invested heavily in advertising in Spanish ahead of the primary.
Wednesday’s endorsement event comes shortly after a week after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced their support for Bass. Bass has a virtual monopoly on the endorsements of elected Democrats, with considerable support at all levels of government.
But she doesn’t have a lock on San Fernando High School alumni: At least one other Tiger, comedian George Lopez, has endorsed Caruso.
Los Angeles Times