Griselda Chapa stood in the street outside her Boyle Heights home, camera ready.
I asked her if she supported Rick Caruso, the candidate for mayor of Los Angeles who had to arrive at any time and vote in the neighborhood where his grandparents once lived.
“I voted for him yesterday,” Chapa said.
When I asked why, the admissions clerk at the hospital said she had lost hope in career politicians, Caruso seems like a nice guy and he’s Italian.
“Are you Italian?” I asked.
“No,” Chapa said. “But I like opera.”
I think Caruso is more of a Sinatra guy, and I guess he had something to sing about on election night. The results were still coming in as my deadline approached, but it seemed like a safe bet to assume Caruso was heading to a runoff with U.S. Rep. Karen Bass.
At the start of the year, it looked like Bass — a former medical assistant, community activist, and state and federal lawmaker — might have a clear path to City Hall.
But in February, Caruso finally scratched a long-held itch and jumped in, saying he loved the city and couldn’t bear to see it in such a miserable state.
I still don’t understand why someone with an estimated net worth of around $4 billion would want to wake up in Brentwood every morning with no worries – other than maybe a falling petunia in the grove – and show up for work in a city with tens of thousands of homeless people and a million other problems, all of which will be piled on its well-hewn shoulders.
But he couldn’t resist the temptation and he had three things going for him.
First, the human catastrophe continues on the streets, accompanied by an increase in crime.
Second, widespread voter dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Third, a ton of money, most of which has been spent on such an intense media blitz, Caruso is on TV more than “Seinfeld.”
In just a few months, he sold himself to becoming a household name and a bona fide celebrity – so much so that when I visited him at The Grove in April, we were interrupted by people wanting to be photographed with him.
“I really appreciate your support and I will work hard for you as mayor, I promise,” Caruso told Chapa when he arrived to vote at the Boyle Heights Senior Citizen Center.
He posed for a photo with her, and as I started to back away, asking if he was going to continue the media blitz over the summer or take a break, Caruso told me he needed to discuss it with his team. , and warned that I should be careful of the dog poo I was about to step on.
“Some of the things you wrote about me sound like that,” he said.
His beard was very amusing, I think. What I said about him is that his plan for the homeless is a little skimpy in detail and a little unrealistic, and I wonder if one of the richest people in town can really understand the struggles of the masses.
Caruso seems to have broad appeal citywide, with strong Latino and black support, if you can overlook the fact that more than 75% of registered voters didn’t care enough to vote. But let’s not forget that despite spending about 12 times as much as Bass in an unprecedented frenzy, he was still in a tight race, suggesting not everyone bought in.
In Boyle Heights, I met a Bass supporter named Ed Santiago, who was about to cast his ballot even as Caruso cast his ballot himself. Santiago, a retired geologist, said he had nothing against Caruso but feared that if Caruso was forced as mayor to side “with business or the people” he would land with the former.
Well, we have five months between now and November, and I’m going to keep an open mind. While Caruso voted in Boyle Heights, Bass voted at a mall in Baldwin Hills, where she held her 7-year-old grandson in her arms.
“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 said. “In the African-American community and in the Latino community, people have fought and died for the right to vote.”
This is another reason why the extremely low turnout is disheartening.
One thing both candidates have going for them is that the city isn’t particularly well run as Eric Garcetti wraps up two decades in office. So it’s not like being a painter and trying to follow Picasso. And voters – who are likely to turn out in far greater numbers in the general election – are exhausted and hungry for change.
“Like many, I’m looking for someone who will offer a new way forward,” West LA resident, software developer and longtime volunteer Mike Eveloff told me for various causes in the city. “It doesn’t seem like we solve problems by doing the same things with different people. We need to disrupt bureaucracy, just as many other institutions have been disrupted by technology. »
I was struck last week by a comment from Hancock Park businessman Dwayne Gathers who said: “Perhaps voters are tired of ‘shades’ and just want to see results that affect their daily lives.
Caruso capitalized on that sentiment with a clear message about career politicians who have made lots of promises but have not been kept.
“If you want more of the same, I’m not your candidate,” Caruso said after casting his ballot in Boyle Heights. “If you want real positive change, I’d love to be your mayor and I’m going to work really hard every day.”
It’s going to be harder and take longer than he thinks, and over the next five months he’ll have to make a stronger case for how he intends to get things done.
The bass has a different take.
“I know how difficult this is going to be,” Bass told me in a 90 Minutes interview last month.
And while, on the other hand, it’s refreshing to know she understands the complexities, voters are impatient, and Bass will have to do more to convince voters that experience and connections are enough to get LA out of the rut it’s in. is located.
The primary was just a pre-game warm-up.
Now, as we like to say in Lakers country, it’s show time.
Los Angeles Times