Billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass will face off in a runoff in November in their costly race to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, with the two well ahead of the rest of the main field.
Caruso held a narrow but growing lead over Bass in partial comebacks early Wednesday. With just over a third of the expected votes counted, Caruso was in the lead with 42% to Bass’s 37%.
Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León was a distant third behind the leaders, with progressive activist Gina Viola fourth.
With a November showdown seemingly imminent, both candidates said the results put them in a good position to win in five months.
“It’s a great night because so many people went to the voting booth and they sent a message: we’re not powerless over our problems,” Caruso told supporters gathered at the Grove, his neighborhood mall. of Fairfax. “We will not allow the city to decline. We will no longer accept excuses.
The contestant called his starring role “a story of victory, about an entire community that refused to let the dream of Los Angeles die.”
Around the same time, Bass met his followers on the rooftop of the W Hotel in Hollywood. “We are fighting for the soul of our city,” she said, “and we are going to win.”
Earlier, Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a Bass supporter, criticized Caruso’s massive campaign spending. “Tonight what we’re already seeing is the big bad wolf blew and he blew and he blew $40 million and he still couldn’t put Karen Bass down,” Harris-Dawson said.
With voters in bad spirits after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a seemingly intractable homelessness crisis and a rise in gun violence, the vote was seen as a referendum on whether Los Angeles would stay with the Liberal Democrat leadership that has been in charge for most of the last half-century.
As an early campaign frontrunner and longtime Democratic office holder, Bass campaigned as a coalition builder who could leverage her connections in Sacramento and Washington to bring more resources to Los Angeles.
Caruso, a former Republican turned Democrat, has pledged to shake up the status quo and make City Hall more efficient, while hiring far more police and moving quickly to clear encampments of the homeless.
The stark choice animated some voters but did little to galvanize the wider electorate, as early vote totals showed about 18% of Los Angeles voters had voted. Final results will be in, as mail-in ballots postmarked on Election Day will be accepted for one more week.
The election will determine who succeeds Mayor Eric Garcetti, who won the maximum two terms and is due to leave office in December. President Biden has nominated Garcetti as ambassador to India, but his confirmation is stalled in the US Senate. A second round takes place if no candidate for mayor obtains a simple majority of the votes cast in the primary.
Caruso, 63, campaigning for public office for the first time, showed signs of the strong emotion surrounding the campaign after casting his ballot Tuesday afternoon in Boyle Heights, where his Italian immigrant grandparents settled after moving to western Pennsylvania.
Caruso punched the electronic screen to vote, then hugged two of his sons, who joined him for the occasion. Later asked to reflect on his decision to run for mayor – having rejected the contest in previous years – the candidate choked up and began to cry.
He remembers the house where his father grew up and where his little grandmother, Josephine, was the boss.
“She had this wooden spoon in the kitchen and she ruled the world,” Caruso said. He said his family’s background says a lot more about him than the “billionaire developer” label usually used to describe him during the campaign.
“As if you weren’t a human being, were you?” he said. “There is a lot of commitment, emotion and love in this decision” to stand for election. “It was not done lightly, and so all these emotions came out.”
Bass, a candidate to become the first woman elected mayor of Los Angeles, also had family and broader themes in mind when she voted with her daughter-in-law and grandson in a mall community hall. of Baldwin Hills. Standing with his arms around the 7-year-old in the mall parking lot, Bass told reporters it was the boy’s first time going to the polls.
“It’s a tradition in my family and in many other families to bring your children with you so that it becomes a habit and they learn that voting is something essential,” Bass, 68, said. “In the African-American community and in the Latino community, people fought and died for the right to vote.
The polling station erupted in applause after a smiling bass marked her ballot.
After voting at the Highland Park Senior Citizen Center in the morning, De León continued his last-minute sprint to win and secure working-class votes in the city’s Asian and Latino communities. He traveled from downtown Grand Central Market to Boyle Heights’ El Mercadito, where he exchanged punches, handshakes and hugs with potential voters.
Angelenos have signaled they are unhappy with the status quo, with a survey showing their view of the quality of life in the Greater LA area has hit a low. UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs found that Los Angeles County residents offered the lowest scores this year in eight of nine quality of life categories since the survey began in 2016.
Voters said they were most focused on three issues as they searched for a replacement for Garcetti: homelessness, crime and public safety, and housing affordability, according to a UC Berkeley poll. Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by The Times.
Bass pledged to provide housing for 15,000 people in his first year in office, although it was unclear what proportion of them would get permanent housing, as opposed to temporary shelter.
She said she would hire enough to bring the Los Angeles Police Department back from its current strength of around 9,400 sworn officers to its authorized strength of 9,700. Noting that just over half of the city’s homicides were resolved in 2020, she called on the department to hire more detectives and investigators.
Caruso promised to find shelter for 30,000 homeless people in his first year in office. He said he intended to increase the size of the police department by 1,500 officers. Although the LAPD has struggled to hire and train enough officers, Caruso said he will remove bottlenecks and find money for more officers by clearing waste in other parts. of the city budget.
The race began with the close of applications in February. Of the dozen candidates who qualified to be on the ballot, Bass — who served six years in the state Assembly and more than a decade in the U.S. House — was clearly the first favorite. A poll showed her with the support of around a third of likely voters, while her rivals languished in single digits.
But then Caruso launched a huge media blitz, spending nearly $41 million over the next four months to outrun the more established elect. Councilman Joe Buscaino tried, but failed to gain traction in the same ideological vein as Caruso, advocating for more police and faster action to clear encampments. Buscaino, a former LAPD officer, dropped out of the race last month and endorsed Caruso.
Atty of the city. Mike Feuer has also found his calling, as a centrist who can get things done, busy. Unable to gain ground on Bass or the rest of the field, Feuer retired days after Buscaino. He endorsed Bass.
This left De León as the city’s only chosen one in the contest. De León relied heavily on his profile as a working-class member who briefly experienced homelessness in early adulthood. But he, too, struggled to gain supporters, even among Latino voters who he hoped would support him.
In the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released the weekend before the vote, Bass had the support of 38% of likely voters, including 32% for Caruso. De León trailed with the support of 6% of likely voters, essentially stuck where he was in April.
The campaign was dominated by Caruso’s advertising, paid for mostly by his personal fortune, which he built by developing shopping malls like the Grove in the Fairfax neighborhood and Americana at Brand in Glendale. His spending of nearly $41 million on Election Day was more than 12 times the amount spent by Bass.
Critics have accused the businessman of trying to buy the election. He said he was simply trying to level the playing field, competing with politicians who had garnered attention for years while working at taxpayers’ expense.
Many of those who chose not to vote remained oblivious to the ads from Caruso and everyone else.
“It just hurts my head. It really does,” said Justin Bretado, 22, of El Sereno, adding that he and his friends were not voting. “At the end of the day, you don’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. It’s always the same thing, every year.
Los Angeles Times