WHO WILL LEAD L.A.? With thousands of ballots uncounted, L.A.’s mayor’s race is too close to call

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By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Billionaire developer Rick Caruso was clinging to a slim lead over U.S. Rep. Karen Bass Nov. 9 in their battle to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, although both candidates predicted victory by the time final ballots are counted.

The L.A. County Registrar’s Office released a statement Nov. 9 indicating that the next ballot update will be announced Nov. 11.

“This election has always been about those who feel they have been left behind and unheard,” Caruso said to supporters Nov. 8 at his election night gathering at the Grove in the Fairfax District. “Well, let me tell you, I hear you and change will happen.”

Bass conveyed a similar jubilant message to supporters at her election night gathering at the Hollywood Palladium.

“We will win,” Bass said. “We’re going to build a new Los Angeles, and when we win, we have to begin again.”

Rick Caruso campaigns for votes in the race to be the next mayor of Los Angeles. Caruso leads U.S. Rep. Karen Bass by 12,000 votes after the ballots were counted election night, but it could be next week before the race is settled.
(Photo by Lorenzo Gomez)

As of late afternoon the next day, with approximately 1.3 million ballots processed and counted, Caruso had 51.25 % of the vote, compared to 48.75 % for Bass.

Bass and Caruso are vying to replace incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is ending his second term.

Caruso and Bass might have to wait until next week to learn the official outcome. The Registrar’s Office still has a high amount of mail-in ballots to process and count. Both candidates are hopeful the remaining uncounted ballots will tip the final vote in their favor.

In the meantime, Caruso and Bass are planning to continue presenting the look of a champion after early returns on election night magnified the tightness of the race.

Sarah Leonard Sheahan, Bass’ communications director, said in a statement Nov. 9 that the campaign “feels great” about the early numbers.

“We expect to see support for our campaign build even more as further reports are released, just like we did in June,” Sheahan said, referring to the mayoral primary, which Bass initially trailed before eventually passing Caruso.

Caruso’s significant comeback since the June primary has put pressure on Bass’ campaign to keep pace. Bass led by as much as 12 percentage points over Caruso after the primary, an advantage that appeared to set Bass up for a decisive win on Nov. 8.

Caruso’s intense attacks on Bass, sparked by more than a reported $100 million in advertising spending by the Caruso campaign, slowly cut into Bass’ lead.

Bass has maintained strong support among women, white liberals and the Black community. Caruso tightened the race after the June primary with a base that included independents, Latinos and some Republicans.

Caruso, a former Republican, switched to the Democratic Party in February shortly before announcing his plans to run for mayor. Bass, a Democratic, tried to highlight Caruso’s late switch as a potential flaw in his ability to run the city, but Caruso has overcome that criticism.

Bass remains confident in her push to become the city’s first female mayor and second African-American mayor.

“We want a City Hall that’s not just a City Hall for the powerful, not just a City Hall for the wealthy, but a City Hall that is for everyone so that we can have the quality of life that I know we deserve,” Bass said.

“The conventional metrics tell me that Karen Bass is going to win,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University. “However, there are two things: The general discontent with the electorate, and $100 million being spent by Caruso — and that makes a difference, obviously.”

Whoever wins the election will inherit leadership of a city grappling with a scandal that has embroiled City Hall for the past month, after three council members and a top county labor official took part in a leaked conversation in October 2021 that included racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting.

“We’ve had a really volatile month in L.A. County, and Rick Caruso has made a late push here that clearly has made, at least in the polling, a significant difference,” said Mindy Romero, director of USC’s Center for Inclusive Democracy.

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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