Rick Caruso leads field, advances to November runoff for LA mayor

Developer leads Congresswoman Karen Bass in early returns

(left to right) Rick Caruso and Karen Bass with City Hall (Getty, iStock)
(left to right) Rick Caruso and Karen Bass with City Hall (Getty, iStock)

Real estate developer Rick Caruso leads U.S. Rep. Karen Bass in the primary for Los Angeles mayor, with both set to go toe-to-toe in a November runoff.

Caruso commanded 42 percent of the votes to 37 percent held by Bass, at last count. City Councilman Kevin de León trails at 7.5 percent, with about a third of the expected votes tallied, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The election hinged on a seemingly intractable homelessness crisis and increased gun violence, with the vote seen as a referendum on whether Los Angeles would choose a reformer or stick with a liberal Democratic establishment that’s held power for more than two decades.

Caruso, a one-time Republican who recently registered as a Democrat, pledged to shake up the status quo and make City Hall more efficient, while hiring more police and quickly clearing away homeless encampments. The billionaire mall builder spent $41 million of his own money on the campaign.

Bass, a longtime Democratic officeholder who was an early front-runner in the race, campaigned as a coalition builder who could leverage connections in Sacramento and Washington to bring more resources to L.A. She spent nearly $3.4 million.

Critics accused the businessman of trying to buy the election. He said he was merely trying to level the playing field, competing against politicians who’d been getting attention for years while working on the taxpayers’ dime.

Early vote totals showed only about 18 percent of Los Angeles voters had cast ballots. Final results will include mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted for one more week.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The November 7 runoff will decide how Angelenos want to fix a worsening quality of life. UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs found Los Angeles County residents this year offering the lowest scores in eight of nine quality-of-life categories since the survey began in 2016.

Voters said they were most concerned about three issues in replacing the outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti: homelessness, crime and public safety, and housing affordability, according to a recent poll.

Caruso has vowed to find shelter for 30,000 homeless residents in his first year in office. He said he intends to increase the size of the Police Department by 1,500 officers by removing bottlenecks to hiring and by rooting out waste in the city budget.

Bass pledged to provide housing for 15,000 people during her first year in office. She said she would hire 300 cops to return the Los Angeles Police Department to its authorized 9,700 sworn officers, while calling for the LAPD to hire more detectives and investigators to crack unsolved murders.

In a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll before the vote, Bass had the support of 38 percent of likely voters, with 32 percent for Caruso.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew