Los Angeles Mayoral Race: Karen Bass Widens Lead Over Rick Caruso – Update


The top two Los Angeles races in today’s primary election look to have both kicked the can down over to November.

Based on early results, Rep. Karen Bass and developer Rick Caruso will face-off in a runoff election in six months, as neither Democrat garnered more 50% of vote to win outright their bid to be Los Angeles’ next mayor. With 39% of precincts reporting, Caruso has 41% and Bass coming in with a stronger than expected 38%. Besieged by scandals and most of the political establishment, Alex Villanueva has survived just barely to fight another day in his bid to remain LA County Sheriff.

Hobbled by tonight’s close results, the top cop incumbent will face former Long Beach police Chief Robert Luna in a runoff election in this fall. Like Bass and spendthrift Caruso, the once progressive Villanueva, who is now a frequent Fox News talking head, looks to have failed to get more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday’s primary ballot. “The numbers are early, it’s hard to figure out where it’s going,” a slightly subdued Villanueva told supporters in East LA tonight and attacking the county Board of Supervisors, the D.A. and Democrats overall. “Even if it goes a long way, I’m built for endurance.”

Now we don’t have the final numbers yet, but I have a feeling we are going to do very well tonight,” a smiling Karen Bass told a loud crowd of supporters in Hollywood on Tuesday night. “You have my back and I have yours LA,” the candidate added, mocking Caruso’s deep pocketed campaign. In his own speech tonight, Caruso spoke of a “great awakening” from Tuesday’s results. While never mentioning his rival Bass by name, Caruso also took a swipe at “corrupt officials” and “career politicians”

The mayoral results come after a very expensive primary that has split the entertainment community and its base of deep pocket Democratic donors. Despite initial figures indicating lower-then-anticipated turnout, there were some reports of an uptick in voters dropping off ballots and casting votes in the final hours before polls closed.

Polls closed at 8 PM PT today.

Bass (D-CA), who Joe Biden considered as a vice presidential pick in 2020, has drawn the support of figures such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has helped bankroll and independent expenditure committee to boost her candidacy. In addition, Ari Emanuel, Steven Spielberg, Showtime boss David Nevins, Norman Lear and J.J. Abrams are on Team Bass along with the likes Ariana Grande and Jennifer Garner. Billionaire Caruso has been backed by Ted Sarandos, UTA’s Jay Sures and  just last week Elon Musk, while his campaign has promoted his support from celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Snoop Dogg and George Lopez.

To a number of donors, Bass and Caruso reflect contrasting styles, particularly when it comes to addressing the two big issues on the minds of LA voters coming out of the worst of the pandemic: homelessness and crime. Bass, who built a community coalition in South Los Angeles, became speaker of the State Assembly and was elected to Congress in 2010, has stressed her experience in working the levers of power and bureaucracy to implement realistic solutions.

Despite initial reports of lower than anticipated turnout in this non-presidential year, a wave of voters both dropping off ballots and voting in person occurred in the closing hours of polls being open. In the greater spotlight of November, with the balance of power in Congress on the line, Bass is expected to benefit from greater voter turnout, especially among the working class. Caruso and team are undoubtedly downcast at fall so far short of making it over that 50% line. Breaking a barrier or two, Bass would be the first female Mayor of LA if elected, as well as the second African-American mayor in the history of the nation’s second largest city.

Former Republican Caruso, the developer behind The Grove and other L.A. shopping malls, as well as the former president of the Police Commission, has shelled out nearly $38 million of his own cash and blanketed the airwaves promising to “clean up L.A.” In response, and with a far smaller war chest at their direct disposal, Bass supporters have tried to taint Caruso as a Donald Trump in centrist clothing.

Moving into the coming months and November, both Bass and Caruso are expected to spend millions and millions more to try to seal the deal with voters in the City of Angels.

Tuesday’s primary also had a handful of other races to watch. Coasting to re-election after beating back last year’s recall efforts, Governor Gavin Newsom learned tonight that he will face Robert Dahle as his GOP challenger in the November election. Appointed to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat when the former Golden State Attorney General became Vice President, Alex Padilla easily advanced on the ballot to take on GOP lawyer Mark Meuser in a rematch of their 2018 secretary of state’s race, which Padilla won easily.

Other races were seen a barometer of a post-pandemic shift toward the middle in progressive urban areas. In San Francisco, a recall saw voters dramatically oust district attorney Chesa Boudin. The large margin rejecting Boudin, who will see a replacement appointed by the SF Mayor,  was a reflection of the wide spread criticism that his progressive criminal justice reform proposals have led to an uptick in crime.

All this state and local political action has occurred as President Biden swoops into the City of Angeles tomorrow for a three day visit. Avoiding the turf wars, POTUS is thinking of November in a different fashion, with the Democrats’ wafer thin control of Congress on the brink in the midterms. Ostensibly in LA to preside over the Summit of the Americas, Biden will also be raking in some war chest cash at a big ticket fundraiser at Haim and Cheryl Saban’s place on Friday, along with at another smaller and elite gathering for the DNC the same night. The president will also be seeking to get his message to a wider than cable news audience with an in-studio appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! soon after Air Force One lands at LAX.

To that end – check out our BidenJam security net, road closures and more story here.

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