Real estate developer Rick Caruso came out ahead of Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) in the Los Angeles Mayoral Primary on Tuesday, with both now heading to a runoff later this year.
With around one-third of the votes in on Wednesday, Caruso currently has 99,852, with Bass at 91,716 and Councilman Kevin de Leon at 17,401. Percentage wise, this leaves Caruso at 41.2%, Bass at 37.8%, and de Leon at 7.2%, albeit with many votes still coming in by mail or needed to be counted still.
At the beginning of the year, Bass was largely expected to come out on top on primary election day, with many experts projecting her to get above the 50% of the vote to avoid a November run-off and succeed the term-limited Eric Garcetti as Mayor.
Caruso held a narrow but widening lead over Bass in partial returns early Wednesday. With slightly more than one-third of the expected votes counted, Caruso was ahead with 42% to Bass’ 37%. However, Caruso entered the race in February, offering a different view than Bass and making crime and homelessness a focus. While Bass still remained popular, especially with her years of lawmaker experience, Caruso quickly gained in the polls. By April, he began leading her in the polls. A large media blitz, pushed by spending more than Bass and de Leon combined, as well as reaching out to the Latino community to great effect, kept Caruso up, culminating with him, as of Wednesday, being ahead of Bass in the voting by 5 points.
“This is a great night because so many people have gone to the voting booth and they sent a message: We are not helpless in the face of our problems,” said Caruso last night at the Grove shopping mall in the Fairfax District of LA. “We will not allow the city to decline. We will no longer accept excuses. My lead is a victory story, about an entire community that refused to let the dream of Los Angeles be extinguished.”
In a tweet, Caruso added that “We are not helpless in the face of our problems. We will not let this city decline. We will no longer accept excuses. We have the power to change the direction of Los Angeles and that is the way we are voting!”
We are not helpless in the face of our problems. We will not let this city decline. We will no longer accept excuses. We have the power to change the direction of Los Angeles and that is the way we are voting! #CarusoCan pic.twitter.com/tSzySzip1u
— Rick J. Caruso (@RickCarusoLA) June 8, 2022
Meanwhile, despite blaming low turnout for her current second-place standing, Bass said that she would ultimately prevail in November.
“We are in a fight for the soul of our city and we are going to win,” expressed Bass speaking from a rooftop party at the W hotel in Hollywood.
In her own tweet on Tuesday, Bass simply added “THANK YOU LOS ANGELES! Onward to November!”
THANK YOU LOS ANGELES!
— Karen Bass (@KarenBassLA) June 8, 2022
With a rematch now set for November, many political analysts will now be watching to race for November in a new light as crime issues are expected to remain a hot button issue and even be amplified thanks to the successful recall of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin on Tuesday and the recall election of LA DA George Gascon likely now also to reach the ballot in November.
Caruso, Bass to face each other again this November
“Homelessness and housing were always on the forefront with Bass, as well as Caruso, but Caruso really got her with crime,” explained Jan Ives, a Washington-based local election analyst, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Caruso did outspend her, but he also did an incredible job of reaching out to minority communities. That was largely built-in for Bass. Caruso had to largely go into new water and he did so beyond all expectations. If de Leon gives Caruso his support, it might just be game over for Bass. That’s how well he is doing.
“And the thing is, for a billionaire, he’s been surprisingly humble. When he first announced, many thought, due to his wealth and conservative past, he might be something of a Trump-like figure or take views too far off the beaten path. But he offered LA a new way and denounced the high crime. Others were saying some of the things, but his message resonated with voters no one thought he could reach out to and kept his feet on the ground. Bass has always been salt-of-the-earth too, and has won over many with policies she wants as Mayor, but she just didn’t beat him on crime, which became a main issue, with most police groups backing him. Bass even had to say she would increase spending at the LAPD to counter Caruso, which lost her some face with die-hard supporters who want police defunding to continue.
“We’ve been hearing back from many in LA today, and the one thing that stood out is how many people saying that Caruso has heart. I’ll put it this way, when Bass gave her vote on Tuesday morning, she went to a mall, a place with a lot of people for an obvious last minute vote grab. De Leon, the same, at a senior center. But Caruso went to Boyle Heights. Largely Latino, so there was a vote grab as a bonus, but he went there in honor of his grandparents who moved there from Italy. It was a deeply personal reason and a connection with LA.
“And then the election parties. Rather then rent out some expensive hotel space, Caruso stayed at one of his own malls to hold it. Bass, she was at a swanky Hollywood hotel on the rooftop. One colleague I know is comparing this to the 2004 presidential race. You know, George Bush was seen playing football and eating fair food, but John Kerry was windsurfing and ordering meals out. Sure, it might have been for the cameras, but the public is seeing this difference between the two. Bass, for a lot of her career, had been that down to earth person, but now she seems to have lost that footing to a billionaire.
“Low voter turnout can be explained away for Tuesday, but as the race goes on to the summer and fall, we’ll see where these attitudes go. It’s going to be an exciting race.”
The November General election is to be held November 8, 2022.