Wave Staff and Wire Reports
LOS ANGELES — The push toward a November runoff in the Los Angeles mayoral race is underway after billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass finishing first and second in the June 7 primary election.
The pair easily topped a wide field of candidates, with City Councilman Kevin de León finishing a distant third, followed by community activist Gina Viola.
Caruso — with a hefty self-funded campaign — had held out some hope of winning the race outright by collecting more than 50% of the vote. But Bass maintained a strong support base, and even moved ahead of Caruso in a poll released just ahead of election day.
Caruso led the way as election results came in and maintained his lead as votes were tallied, but he fell short of the 50% mark. Semi-final results showed Caruso with 42.14%, to Bass’ 36.95%. De León received 7.49% of the vote.
Caruso spoke to supporters at his most well-known development, The Grove.
“This is a great night because so many people have gone to the voting booth and they sent a message: we are not helpless in the face of our problems,” he said.
“We will not allow the city to decline. We will no longer accept excuses. We have the power to change the direction of Los Angeles, and that’s the way we’re voting.”
Bass, speaking at the W Hotel in Hollywood at about the same time Caruso was making his remarks, told supporters, “Now we don’t have the final numbers yet, but let me tell you, I have a feeling we’re going to do very well tonight.
“Tonight, we’re seeing the voters make a clear choice. They want leadership that is battle-tested, mission-driven and always fights for L.A.’s values. Tonight the city will see that it’s hard to defeat a people power campaign.”
Local activist and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson said he was disappointed in Bass’ showing in the primary.
“I get Caruso’s big bucks, and the Police Protective League tossing the financial kitchen sink at Bass, but in a city like Los Angeles, primarily Hispanic, Black, Asian, young, liberal to progressive and top heavy Democratic, Bass should have still … topped Caruso in the number of votes received in the primary,” Hutchinson said.
He said Bass relied too much on the support of national Democrats.
“Playing up her national Democratic party ties means nothing in local politics,” he said. “And playing up [President Joe] Biden’s endorsement was a mistake at this juncture given his low popularity ratings.”
He said Bass has time to correct these errors and re-pivot her campaign toward non-traditional community leaders, activists, stakeholders and progressive media and social media outlets that can add punch to her campaign.
But, he added, Caruso and the Police Protective League are invigorated by the primary results and now sniff a path to victory.
“They will throw everything at her for a knock-out blow in November,” Hutchinson said.
Caruso, 63, is the developer behind The Grove, Palisades Village and other shopping centers. He was born in Los Angeles and served as president of the civilian Police Commission after being appointed to the panel by Mayor James Hahn in August 2001, as well as on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
In January — about three weeks before announcing his bid for mayor in a city almost entirely run by Democrats — Caruso changed his voter registration to Democrat after almost a decade of being registered with no party preference. He was registered as a Republican before that.
He focused his campaign’s platform on expanding temporary homeless shelters with a goal of creating 30,000 beds in 300 days, banning encampments, increasing the LAPD’s force and addressing corruption at City Hall, noting the indictment of three City Council members since 2020.
On his campaign website, he criticized the cost of the city’s Proposition HHH program aimed at building 10,000 new units of permanent supportive housing and said he will have a team conduct an audit of wasteful city spending. While Caruso’s website says the average cost of the program is $700,000 per unit, the city’s controller put the average cost under $600,000.
Under Caruso’s plan, projects that cost more than $350,000 per unit would be canceled, and he said he would prioritize projects that keep costs low by using modular housing, shipping containers and other cheaper methods to build housing. He also said he would focus on tiny homes, Project Roomkey and Project Homekey efforts, as well as using land owned by the city to create affordable housing or shelters.
Caruso, who was endorsed by the union that represents LAPD officers, has made rising crime in Los Angeles — a trend that has occurred in large cities across the U.S. during the pandemic — a centerpiece of his campaign and pledged to add 1,500 new officers to the LAPD’s force in his first term.
The city’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year budget is aimed at expanding the LAPD’s sworn personnel to 9,735, but attrition and hiring delays have raised doubts of whether that more modest goal can even be met.
Caruso’s public safety plan also includes expanding the LAPD’s Gun Unit, expanding laws regarding the safe storage of firearms, doubling the number of gang prevention workers, and making it mandatory for the Los Angeles city attorney to prosecute misdemeanors. He also called for the statewide $950 minimum for felony theft charges to be reduced.
Bass, 68, would be Los Angeles’ first female mayor and only the second Black mayor, after Tom Bradley, who led the city from 1973 to 1993.
She would also be the first sitting House member to be elected mayor of Los Angeles since 1953, when Rep. Norris Poulson was elected. Then-Reps. James Roosevelt, Alphonzo Bell and Xavier Becerra lost campaigns for mayor in 1965, 1969 and 2001.
Bass was elected to the House in 2010 and was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2019-21. She was under consideration to be President Joe Biden’s 2020 running mate, but then-Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, was chosen instead.
Bass’ campaign has also highlighted her work as an activist before holding elected office. In 1990, she founded the nonprofit Community Coalition, with the goal of transforming social and economic conditions in South Los Angeles.
Her campaign’s platform includes plans to address climate change, homelessness and public safety.
To reduce crime, Bass stressed the need for community-based investments to prevent the root causes of crime, including drug treatment and mental health services, housing, outreach, domestic violence assistance and youth programs.
Her public safety plan also calls for the hiring of civilian personnel within the Los Angeles Police Department to move desk officers to patrol, bringing the department to its authorized force of 9,700. As of May 17, the department had 9,352 sworn personnel.
Her campaign calls for temporary housing and permanent supportive housing to get the city’s unhoused population off the street, setting an ambitious goal of housing 15,000 people by the end of her first year as mayor.
Her temporary housing plan includes identifying available city-owned land; converting existing motels, hotels, closed hospitals and vacant commercial buildings; and partnering with religious and community institutions, as well as private companies.
To build long-term and affordable housing, she is calling for policies that will expedite affordable housing developments and state funding to increase units through the Project Homekey program. She also calls for more affordable housing, saying 352,000 people in Los Angeles are at risk of becoming homeless.
Bass also released a climate change plan and said that as mayor she would help lead the city to its goal of achieving 100% clean energy by 2035, as well as continue efforts to decarbonize buildings and achieve a zero emission Port of Los Angeles.