Three of the largest mayoral races in California, as well as the entire country, remained undecided nearly a week after election day as of Monday, with Los Angeles, San Jose, and Oakland likely to not have overall winners until late this month.
The largest race, by far, has been the LA race, with Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) running neck-to-neck with developer Rick Caruso. In what was once considered a “sure thing” by Bass supporters, the Congresswoman went from leading Caruso by 12 points in August, to only three points in early October due to multiple scandals, including an alleged bribery incident at USC. Caruso even took the lead late last month for a time following further hurdles for Bass, including high spending by the Caruso campaign and a video surfacing of Bass supporting scientology. With a final poll showing the two in a dead heat, the race was truly anyone’s on election day.
Caruso had the lead after election night, leading by several thousand votes 51%-49%. However, that lead shrank during the week as more ballots were counted, with Bass taking the lead during the weekend. As of Monday, Bass is currently up over Caruso by 9,400 votes with 67% of all votes in, 306,990 to 297,527. While there is still enough of a disparity that Caruso can retake the lead, the closeness of the race has already put many liberal Democrats in the city on edge, as the blowout election streak for top Democrat candidates in the last several elections in the city seems to have ended, potentially signaling a major change in political leanings in LA.
Out in Oakland, another contentious election has pitted several candidates against each other, including City Councilmembers Loren Taylor, Treva Reid and Sheng Thao, as well as former City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuenta and attorney Allyssa Victory.
While there are numerous candidates, the main dogfight has been between Taylor and Thao, with polls throughout the year showing them to be neck-to-neck. Locked in over issues such as crime, homelessness, affordable housing, gas prices, and the looming recession, neither Taylor nor Thao have managed to pull far away from each other, with black and Asian voters in particular coming out in support for Taylor and Thao respectively.
Results on election day only muddled the waters of who was winning further, with results remaining extremely close. As of Monday, when pared down by the ranked-choice voting method, Taylor is leading Thao by only a slight 53%-47% margin, with 22,240 votes against 19,475 and 120,000 ballots left in the County to count.
San Jose has also proven to be anyone’s election, with City Councilman Matt Mahan holding a slight lead over Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. The race, which was also very close throughout the election, was known as a sparring session for both candidates, with the largest issues of housing, homelessness and public safety, particularly combative for several months. Polls showed Mahan holding a tiny lead though, and the results have mirrored that.
The last count on Sunday showed Mahan ahead of Chavez 51% to 49%, with 103,241 votes coming up against 98,610 votes. While Mahan does hold the advantage, with Chavez needing a final wave of ballots in her favor to take the lead, enough votes remain out there on Monday to have no decided winner.
Close races across California
Closeness has been a major theme of Californian elections this year, with the undecided House races still up for grabs likely to decide which party gets control of the House, and a closer than expected Governor’s race putting Gavin Newsom down as the worst supported Democratic Governor candidate in California since 2010, despite the swift victory on election day. But for the major Mayoral races to still be undecided this late after election day is unusual, with experts noting that the issues in California, such as crime and homelessness, have played a larger factor than they have nationwide, where issues like abortion and inflation were major concerns.
“Californians worry about inflation and abortion rights too. That isn’t the issue,” explained Jan Ives, a Washington-based local election analyst, to the Globe on Monday. “It’s that crime really impacted a lot of elections. Homelessness impacted a lot of elections. Candidates having different solutions impacted elections there more. Money was big in California. It was a bit of a shock on Tuesday to see that the red wave wasn’t happening as thought, but as we see in California, it kind of has had a larger impact.
“And that includes these mayoral races. Predictions early on showed Bass and Taylor coming out with huge victories, and Chavez eking it out in San Jose. But look at what has happened. The Bass campaign has been thoroughly embarrassed, with even a win now still being a loss since they might have just fractured Democrats in LA for a long time to come as a result, helped in part by the recording scandal. Oakland, at a crossroads of being a historically black city and something more diverse, has seen the split in the Mayoral election. And San Jose has just been a shootout.
“No matter what happens in these races, everyone will have lost in at least some way. And for a state where Democrats pride themselves on unity and being a ‘big blue’ nationally, it is very concerning for them.”
Votes for the three undecided races are expected to be called for in the next few weeks, barring a recount.
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