LA Times picks Bass after Daily News gives nod to Caruso

Developer slightly ahead in latest poll with six weeks to primary vote

Rick Caruso and Karen Bass (Caruso, Wikipedia)
Rick Caruso and Karen Bass (Caruso, Wikipedia)

Everyone agrees Los Angeles has problems — a homelessness crisis, soaring housing costs,  rising crime.

Don’t expect broad agreement on whether a real estate developer or a veteran politician should steer L.A. on a new path as mayor, a question that appears to divide both voters and the major daily newspapers in the city. Developer Rick Caruso pocketed the L.A. Daily News’ endorsement as his ad-driven momentum in the polls was building last month, but U.S. Representative Karen Bass countered by getting the L.A. Times’ nod on May 1.

Caruso, with a campaign pitch that promises “clean up L.A.,” got the endorsement of the city’s second paper, the traditionally Republican-leaning and San Fernando Valley-centric Los Angeles Daily News, which began its endorsement by describing the city’s “storm” of failed homelessness policies, over- promised budgets and corruption.

“If ever there was a time for an outsider candidate, this is it,” the L.A. Daily News’ editorial board wrote today. “Businessman Rick Caruso is the right candidate at the right time.”

The endorsement came with a real estate-focused rationale for its choice: Caruso, as a successful developer, “is well-acquainted with the difficulties of building and doing business in Los Angeles compared to other cities” — experience the board believes will help him build his way to solving homelessness. Caruso, for his part, has promised to declare an emergency on the issue and build 30,000 temporary shelter beds; he also wants to cut red tape on low-income housing permitting, fight anti-development lawsuits and utilize city-owned surplus properties.

“That’s all easier said than done,” the board continued, “but Caruso offers a track record of working with stakeholders in many communities and successfully completing projects despite regulatory and other hurdles.”

The board added that Caruso “has demonstrated excellent management skills throughout his career, and if there’s one thing Los Angeles needs, it’s better management.”

Caruso, a longtime Republican before abruptly declaring himself a Democrat in January, has also won endorsements from pro-business groups and the union that represents rank-and-file officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Bass has the support of various labor unions, women’s rights groups and high-profile Democratic politicians–and the L.A. Times’ endorsement gave her the seal of approval of the largest newspaper in the city.

“These are pessimistic days in Los Angeles,” the L.A. Times’ editorial board wrote. “In a climate of fear and discontent, politics can turn ugly. Opportunistic politicians pander to people’s emotions, offering themselves as the strongman to bring order.”

Bass is a candidate, the Times’ editorial board wrote, who has earned a reputation as a “thoughtful, pragmatic, collaborative leader” focused on protecting society’s most vulnerable. The Times endorsement of the Democratic congresswoman––a veteran politician who emerged as a likely frontrunner the moment she jumped into the race in September.

The board chronicled a glowing litany of Bass’ decades of public service: her neighborhood activism during the crack epidemic, her reforms of the state’s troubled foster care system, her compromises with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on a key financial package, her willingness to forego credit to help pass a piece of federal legislation.

“Contrast that with billionaire developer Rick Caruso,” the board continued, whose “ubiquitous ads suggest he alone can solve homelessness, cut crime or eliminate public corruption.”

Bass is in a tight race thanks largely to Caruso’s blitz of ad spending — paid for largely by the nearly $23 million he has provided his own campaign. Caruso in recent weeks has blanketed L.A.’s broadcast, radio, print and social media in an effort that helped him surge from darkhorse to serious contender. In one April poll from UC Berkeley and the L.A. Times, Caruso was actually the race leader, taking 24% of the prospective primary vote to Bass’ 23%.

The mayoral field is crowded, with a total of 12 candidates. If no single candidate wins a majority in the June primary, the most likely scenario, the top two will face off in the November general election.

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