City Councilman exits race, endorses Caruso for LA mayor

Former cop Buscaino yields to developer after failing to win police union support

Candidate Rick Caruso, Councilman Joe Buscaino and Los Angeles City Hall (Rick Caruso, Joe Buscaino, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)
Candidate Rick Caruso, Councilman Joe Buscaino and Los Angeles City Hall (Rick Caruso, Joe Buscaino, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino has dropped out of the mayoral race and backed billionaire Rick Caruso after the developer eclipsed his campaign planks of dealing with street encampments and hiring more police.

The former L.A. police officer was among the first to throw his hat in the ring, launching a campaign centered on homelessness and public safety, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But his campaign withered under the tens of millions spent by the shopping center builder, who’d run on the same themes. So he dropped out and cast his support for Caruso.

“We share the same values,” Buscaino said during a press conference at the Grove, Caruso’s tony outdoor mall in the Fairfax district. “We want the same thing for our city. We want a city that is clean. We want a city that is safe. We want a city that leads with compassion and brings forth innovative solutions to the homelessness crisis. And Rick will do that.”

With the June 7 primary around the corner, his support could provide lift for Caruso, who has been polling neck-to-neck with Rep. Karen Bass.

The homelessness crisis and a rise in crime were the two big issues brought to the forefront by Buscaino, and then Caruso.

It was Buscaino who led the call for the Los Angeles Police Department to raise its force to 11,000 officers, citing upticks in homicides and gun violence.

And it was Buscaino who early in the campaign became the “clean streets” candidate, saying homeless residents should not be allowed to camp on public sidewalks if they’d been repeatedly offered beds in shelters.

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On the council, he’d been the lone voice calling for the city to make anti-camping ordinances more stringent, while leaving the troubled Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

He had also pushed for a ballot measure that would have barred people from sleeping or camping on sidewalks, parks and public places if they’d turned down offers of shelter or emergency housing. His allies stopped collecting signatures after the city announced a $3 billion settlement in a federal lawsuit to solve homelessness.

Despite his efforts, Buscaino failed to rev up his campaign, never drawing more than 4 percent of support among likely voters. A poll last month found only 1 percent of likely voters backed him.

Buscaino, like the other candidates, has been vastly outspent by the self-financed Caruso campaign. He’d also failed to win support from the union for LAPD rank-and-file officers, which endorsed Caruso – a major blow to the Buscaino run.

“Joe never articulated a plan on how to win or raise the money necessary to be competitive in this race,” Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League told KFI’s “John & Ken.” “He spent most of his time attacking Rick Caruso instead of explaining his vision.”

Buscaino represents neighborhoods from San Pedro and L.A.’s port complex north to Watts. In order to run for mayor, he chose not to seek a third and final term on the council.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew

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