According to a UC Berkeley – Institute of Governmental Studies poll released on Monday, Developer Rick Caruso now has a slight 1% lead over Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) in the upcoming Los Angeles Mayoral primary election. This is surprising many election observers who have been expecting an easy first place finish for Bass.
Caruso, whose showing in previous polls in February and March was only at 8% and 6% respectively, shot up to 24% following a major advertising blitz and a campaign focus on crime issues in Los Angeles. Bass, who was leading with 32% of the projected vote two months ago, fell to 23% as support for her has cooled, primarily among San Fernando Valley voters and more Conservative-leaning Democrats.
Among the other candidates, LA City Councilman Kevin de Leon, who previously shot up from 8% to a commanding 12% second-place amount last month, saw his support crumble to 6%. Fellow Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Attorney Mike Feuer, who saw modest gains from a 4% showing in the February poll to 8% and 7% in March respectively, fell significantly. According to the Berkeley report on Monday, Feuer is only bringing in 2% of voters, with Buscaino only 1%. The only other candidate with any significant percentages, grassroots organizer Gina Viola, with 2%.
Margin of error: +/- 3.5%
Top two in June primary advance to November.
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Like all previous polls, undecided voters led the way with 40%, sitting with the same percentage at 40% in February and 42% in March. Berkeley IGS noted that, with 2,047 registered voters in LA surveyed and 1,380 of them being deemed likely to vote in June for the primary, that the margin of error came down to 3.5%. With the margin of error allowing Bass or Caruso to pull ahead, the poll definitively showed that the winner of the LA Mayoral primary in less than two months is now not certain to be Bass.
The poll showed that Bass is doing well among black voters and liberal white voters, attracting 50% and 40% respectively of each group. She has also kept up her large voting bloc in the Southern part of the city and parts of Westside – both of which having been in her Congressional district.
Meanwhile, Caruso not only has a strong white base, but he has been bringing in disaffected moderate and conservative voters, as well as Republicans willing to vote for the one-time GOP member. Caruso has also been building out his base in the San Fernando Valley and has been attracting Latino voters. While once initially more behind de Leon in previous polls, support amongst Latinos has gradually turned more undecided, with Caruso now leading de Leon 16% to 15% in polls thanks to an increase in Spanish-language advertising and Bass now distant third with 10%. Over half remain undecided.
Caruso leads by one point over Bass in LA
While Caruso’s March advertising blitz, branching out to Latino voters, and drawing in of moderates, are important factors for his jump in the polls, surprised insiders have noted that questions over crime and corruption have been major forces as well.
“Caruso has had the airwaves to himself,” explained UC Berkeley IGS Director Mark DiCamillo on Monday. “It’s a classic case where he’s getting out in front, and he’s defining himself before his opponents can define him on their terms. Apparently the advertising is getting people’s attention.”
Los Angeles issue advisor Ramon Martin said in a Globe interview on Monday, ” The poll was most interesting to me when it came to issues. Homelessness was the main issue for well over 60% of voters, which considering the issues in the city, make a lot of sense. But crime, which Caruso has really leaned into, was at 38% and growing since February. It may not be the worst the city has ever seen but it’s still very bad, and, like I said, a growing concern.”
“Right now, in LA, which the poll clearly shows, homelessness, crime, and affordable housing are the chief concerns. For Bass, she needs to get advertising out now, reach out to the Latino and Asian communities, talk more about crime, and really increase her likability. If I was on her campaign, I’d swoop into the Valley and do some events to really hit Caruso where he lives and gain support there. For Caruso, I’d talk more about homelessness and affordable housing. He’s a developer, so if he could find a way to make housing in LA cheaper while also ensuring a profit and return on investment for the developers for an ultimate win-win scenario, that might just push many undecided voters to him, as well as keep his base.”
“A big turn off for many on Caruso is that he is a billionaire developer. He needs to show that he is for the little guy. It’s been partially working by going after crime, but he needs to convince people that he is here to help. Bass, she has a likability problem. I’ve talked with many in LA trying to bring out the vote in June and Caruso is the guy you’d have a beer with or the kind of guy who will get carnival food at a fair. Is it just for the cameras? Maybe, but perception is big. Bass has that issue. People agree that the issues she is talking about are important, but as one canvasser coordinator told me last week, voters really want her to stop fighting and talking for five minutes and just chill out for a little. If she goes to an event up in Reseda and gets a donut or shows up to a Dodgers game with a hot dog and beer in the cheap seats among the people, then use that in ads, it would at least put a dent in things for Caruso.”
“As for the others, they need to get back their core supporters and expand out from there. Specifically, de Leon needs to retap into Latino voters, as he’s been losing ground there. It might do him well to look how Villaraigosa did it during his election and take some notes.”
The Los Angeles Mayoral primary is to be held on June 7th.
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