Rep. Karen Bass defeats Rick Caruso in LA mayoral race

LOS ANGELES — US Rep. Karen Bass defeated developer Rick Caruso on Wednesday to become the next mayor of Los Angeles. She became the first black woman to hold office as City Hall struggled with a runaway homelessness crisis, rising crime rates and several scandals that have shaken confidence in government.

With more than 70% of the votes counted, Bass had amassed an insurmountable lead of nearly 47,000 votes. She had 53.1%, Caruso got 46.9%.

Bass was working in her Los Angeles convention office when she was informed by an aide that she had won the race.

“We’re fighting for the soul of our city,” Bass said at a rally on election night. “We will build a new Los Angeles.”

Bass — a Democrat who was on President-elect Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president — overcame more than $100 million in spending from billionaire Caruso’s campaign while arguing that she would be a coalition builder in a troubled city with could heal almost 4 million.

The election tested whether voters in the heavily democratic city were willing to turn away from their liberal tendencies and embrace an approach that would place a heavy emphasis on public safety.

Caruso, a former Republican who turned Democrat just before entering the race, had represented a swing to the right. He argued that Bass and other longtime politicians were part of the problem that led LA into multiple crises. He promised to expand the police agency to deal with rising crime rates and quickly get ubiquitous homeless encampments off the streets.

A former chairman of the state assembly, Bass has had the advantage of being a life-long Democrat in a city where Republicans are almost invisible. She was backed by Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the Democratic establishment.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso smiles as he speaks at his headquarters on election night in Los Angeles on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bass built an insurmountable 53.1% lead over Rick Caruso’s 46.9%.

The election had historic dimensions as she will be the first woman and second black person to hold the office, after former Mayor Tom Bradley, who held the office from 1973 to 1993. She takes office next month as the city council faces a racism scandal that led to the resignation of her former president and is calling for the resignation of two other members. More than 40,000 people are homeless and there is widespread concern about crime, ranging from daytime muggings on the city’s sidewalks to thefts in luxury stores.

The winner replaces beleaguered Democrat Eric Garcetti, who will end two rocky terms with his nomination for US ambassador to India, which has stalled in the Senate – apparently over sexual misconduct allegations against a former top Garcetti aide.

The race was shaped in large part by Caruso’s lavish spending – and his inevitable publicity. City records show that his campaign spending to date has exceeded $100 million, most of it with his own money.

Bass, with only a fraction of that amount available, had said, “It’s not the power of money, it’s the power of people.”

Caruso’s attempt to highlight unsafe streets bore some resemblance to 1993, when LA voters turned to Republican Richard Riordan to lead the city after the deadly 1992 riots that broke out after four white police officers charged with assault on a black motorist Rodney King. It also has parallels with New York City in the early 1990s, when perceptions that crime was out of control helped introduce Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

However, Los Angeles has changed a lot since Riordan’s days. It’s more Latino, less white, and more solidly Democratic — Republicans make up only about 13% of voters, while Democrats make up nearly 60%, with most of the remaining independents being Democrats.

Caruso’s campaign had no immediate comment. Rep. Karen Bass defeats Rick Caruso in LA mayoral race


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