Billionaire real estate developer and CEO of the Caruso real estate company, Rick Caruso, entered the Los Angeles Mayoral race on Friday.
A graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) and Pepperdine University, Caruso grew up in Los Angeles. Caruso’s father, Henry Caruso, was the founder of Dollar Rent-A-Car. After graduating, Caruso briefly became a real estate lawyer before transitioning into retail and residential property development. Beginning in the 1990’s, Caruso began developing a number of properties across Southern California including the Commons at Calabasas, Palisades Village in Pacific Palisades, and The Grove in LA.
While Caruso has not been elected to any public office in the past, he has received a number of appointments in Los Angeles. In 1985, then-Mayor Tom Bradley appointed Caruso, then only 26, as a Commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the youngest ever to hold the position. This was followed up in 2001 by then-Mayor James Hahn appointing him to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, serving as President for 5 years. Throughout the years, he has also served as the Chairman of the USC Board of Trustees and several other smaller city commission placements.
Since the 2010’s he has also big a big political donor, spending millions on campaign contributions, backing for initiatives and other causes. In the most recent presidential election, Caruso, who has shifted from Republican to Independent to Democrat in the past decade, maxed out donations to then-Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. Caruso has also brought his share of controversy over the years, from calls of his projects causing hyper-gentrification in some areas to outrage from the Armenian community in Glendale for his refusal to put up advertisements for a documentary of the Armenian genocide up in his mall there.
After filing his candidacy papers with the City Clerk on Friday, Caruso briefly spoke with the media.
“I’m excited to be here. It’s a very meaningful day for me and my family,” noted Caruso. “I love Los Angeles.”
However, his statement was quickly interrupted by at least one protestor who screamed “L.A. doesn’t want a billionaire as mayor,” causing Caruso to leave.
In a subsequent Tweet, Caruso added that “I believe in the LA dream — and I know that we can end homelessness, crime, and corruption. But the politicians can’t. That’s why today I formally began the process of running for Mayor of Los Angeles.”
I believe in the LA dream — and I know that we can end homelessness, crime, and corruption. But the politicians can't.
That's why today I formally began the process of running for Mayor of Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/HwiFRFXF8u
— Rick J. Caruso (@RickCarusoLA) February 12, 2022
While Caruso is already being compared to Richard Riordan, the Republican LA Mayor elected in 1993 who also had a solely business background whose first election was the LA Mayoral. he has made numerous shifts to fall more in line with the LA of the 2020s. Last month, Caruso switched from being an Independent to a Democrat, but outlined his position of being more of a centrist with strong positions on homelessness, public safety and corruption.
“I won’t be a typical Democrat, that’s for sure,” said Caruso in a January statement. “I will be a pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat.”
Political insiders noted that Caruso would likely be a hard sell for voters in the June primary due to his status of being a billionaire, being seen as out of touch by many, and his lack of elected experience.
“When put aside top candidates like [Congresswoman Karen] Bass [(D-CA], he doesn’t look like the type of candidate people are expecting,” explained Los Angeles issue advisor Ramon Martin to the Globe on Friday. “Comparisons are being made to Riordan, but I have younger colleagues that are comparing him to the fictional LA Mayor in a show called Mr. Mayor, in which Ted Danson plays a millionaire who becomes Mayor of LA. It’s not a good sign when a large number of voters are comparing him to a sitcom character.”
“It also comes at a time in which many Millennials and Gen Zers are facing rent hardships and partially blame developers and landlords for high rent amounts. I know Caruso’s main thing is retail, but it’s still not a good look, especially with many calling him out over gentrification. He’ll really need to sell people on his abilities to even come out ok in the primary, let alone November.”
In addition to Bass, Caruso will also have to face current top candidates City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Councilmen Kevin de Leon and Joe Buscaino in the June 7th Mayoral primary.
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