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Echo Park in Los Angeles (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

Caruso, Bass Spar In Second Los Angeles Mayoral Debate

Recent ads, spending, homelessness, housing, crime, major debate issues for candidates

By Evan Symon, October 7, 2022 1:39 pm

The second Los Angeles Mayoral debate featuring candidates Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and real estate Developer Rick Caruso was held on Thursday night, with both candidates coming out with ferocity over homelessness, housing, crime, and other issues.

LA Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso following Primary election victory on 6/8/2022. (Photo: Rick Caruso for Los Angeles)

While most of the issues had been carried over since the last debate in late September, Caruso’s recent resurgence in the race due to recent controversies involving Bass, causing Caruso to come within three points in polls, led to many new issues Thursday. Those issues, along with new ones such as the recent LA Public schools cyber attack, came up, leading Bass to give some of her most pointed barbs so far in the election.

The affordable housing issue was the issue that popped up most on Thursday, with Bass personally going after Caruso’s past as a developer who didn’t build affordable housing to help alleviate the current crisis’ in the city.

“You have misled voters by describing yourself as a builder amid the city’s homelessness crisis because you haven’t built affordable housing,” Bass said in the debate. “Even though you’ve never been elected to office, unfortunately you have been displaying some of the worst tendencies of what they say about elected officials.”

However, Caruso countered by saying that he was only a commercial retail developer and not a housing developer,  and then going right back after Bass by saying that she had done nothing to help alleviate the housing crisis in LA during her two decade tenure.

“I began prioritizing affordable housing after announcing my candidacy for mayor because it’s the number 1 job for the mayor,” Caruso fired back. “It hasn’t been my career. If I would’ve focused on housing, I would have been building housing. I build retail centers. That’s my job.”

“I didn’t see the Congresswoman in any bill saying we’re going to build more housing in Los Angeles. She’s represented us for 20 years.”

The issue of crime

When the issue of crime in the city came up, Bass went on the defensive, saying that she never said that she would defund the police, a well as noting that an increase in police in some neighborhoods would not be an answer to help stop crime, with different strategies being needed.

“Not all communities want to see an increase in police presence,” added Bass. “That is not a solution in a lot of communities. A lot of communities want to see a serious investment in crime prevention and intervention strategies.”

Democratic U.S. Representative Karen Bass at a Get Out The Vote rally for 2016 Hillary Clinton in Leimert Park Village Plaza a day before the California Primary. (Photo: Joseph Sohm, Shutterstock)

Caruso, meanwhile, pushed for an increase of police in neighborhoods, as well as increased prosecution, and blamed current LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for the shape of the department right now.

“You also have to have zero-tolerance, and you have to hold people accountable for that crime,” explained Caruso “If it’s a misdemeanor, it has to be held accountable by our city attorney or our district attorney.”

While both candidates did have opposing views on how to solve the issue, they did ultimately agree that the rise of crime and hate incidents in the city was concerning.

Caruso also went after Bass repeatedly for not improving the city during the homeless crisis, pointing out that LA still looks very rough despite the World Cup coming to the city in 2026 and the Olympics coming in 2028.

“We’re going to have a big lens on the city of Los Angeles. Do we want it looking like it looks now?” asked Caruso. “Do we want the homeless, the encampments, the crime, the dirt, the graffiti? We’ve got the World Cup coming, and we’re going to put this on the world stage. We need to get it cleaned up.”

Otherwise, it was much like the first debate, with Bass pushing for more comprehensive housing and Caruso wanting more shelter space to better serve the homeless population.

Ads and spending

However, the largest dust up of the night was over campaign funding and ads. Both Caruso and Bass defended themselves from recent ads, with Caruso fighting off recent attacks over being pro-choice while also being a former Republican, and Bass going after Caruso following the release of an ad showing Bass speaking positively about Scientology at an event at the church in the 2010’s.

High spending was also a major point. Bass said Caruso spent over $60 million dollars trying to win over voters and paint Bass in a negative light simply because he wasn’t leading in the polls.

“Rick Caruso is running a desperate campaign with a Republican strategy to consistently attack me, because he’s not doing well in the polls,” exclaimed Bass. “He spent over $60 million trying to convince voters that I am somebody I’m not. When you lie to people and say that you’re going to do these expensive things that you know good and well you can’t do, that creates the cynicism within voters. So even though you’ve never been elected to office, unfortunately, you have been displaying some of the worst tendencies of what they say about elected officials.”

Political experts noted that while Caruso won the first debate, Bass showed more fight in this debate, making it more of a draw.

“Bass finally showed a bit more fire in her belly last night,”  said Jan Ives, a Washington-based local election analyst, in a Globe interview on Friday. “She’s finding herself in a close race now, and like anyone backed into a corner, she had to fight her way out. And she did.”

“But a lot of what worked against both candidates went unsaid. Like when Bass went after Caruso’s spending. She stopped at a certain point because those ads are now actually working quite well against her. Conversely, Caruso didn’t give a full outline on what he would do for the city since he has been more cautious and defended being a developer, with it being unsaid about how he didn’t just switch up developments at some point to do his part.”

“Caruso still has momentum following the debate for sure, but Bass proved that she will not give up her lead easily, let alone give up on the race. There’s still a month left, and anything can happen in the next four weeks or so.”

The next LA Mayoral debate is to be next week on October 11th.

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