L.A. Mayoral Race Neck And Neck As Voters Head To Polls

Despite her win in the June primary, Karen Bass’s lead on Rick Caruso has significantly shrunk as voters head to polls
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An expensive, lengthy, and frequently quite contentious mayoral campaign has played out over 32 months in Los Angeles. It ends today. However, polling is giving no indication as to who will likely be the next to run the city, and the tight race between Rep. Karen Bass and developer Rick Caruso has somehow become even tighter in the past week.

Six-term U.S. Rep Bass would be the first woman and second Black person to be L.A.’s mayor. Caruso has used over $100 million—pretty much all of it from his own bank account and spent on a seemingly never-ending series of TV ads—to prevent this and become L.A.’s first billionaire mall developer mayor.

After an early October poll revealed a 15-point advantage over Caruso, Bass now leads by only four points as voters head to the polls. While Angelinos favor Bass, experts are saying that the results could hinge on a few other factors.

It’s generally understood that the electorate in Los Angeles favors Bass; however, the wind has shifted a bit and the results of this race could hinge on other factors. On Friday, LAMag reported on a kerfuffle Bass is enduring with the Korean American community in Los Angeles after comments Bass allegedly made regarding Korean American liquor store owners back in the early 1990s resurfaced. Bass has denied she made the comments in the unearthed report. Pew Research indicates that L.A. is home to approximately 326,000 Korean Americans.

“Who is going to be the 43rd mayor of Los Angeles? Good question,” Jon Regardie, a columnist for LAMag and adjunct USC journalism professor, says on Tuesday. “Recent polls have had the race tight, and while the demographics of Los Angeles make the city more likely to lean toward a lifelong Democrat like Bass, the $107 million that Caruso has dropped, and the ground game his team has unleashed, are the type of things that can explode expectations. It’s a cliché, but it literally all comes down to who can turn out their base.”

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Whoever wins the election, however, will face a mountain of challenges as they take office. As Guerra mentioned, the discontent within the electorate, sparked by leaked audio of an October 2021 conversation in which three council members made racist comments and attempted to manipulate redistricting, poses a major hurdle to the incoming mayor.

The City Hall scandal is only the beginning, as the incoming mayor will also inherit the Los Angeles homelessness crisis, a problem that has only become more serious in recent years. The latest point-in-time homeless count released earlier this month showed a 1.7% increase in the number of unhoused people in Los Angeles since 2020, bringing the total to 41,980.

While Caruso has stated that he plans to address the homelessness crisis by building 30,000 new shelter beds in his first year in office, Bass offers a different solution.

“What we have done for too long is we have put people in shelters,” Bass said. “Now the shelters have become so dangerous, people don’t even want to be in the shelters and are choosing to be outside on the street…at the end of the day you can’t criminalize poverty.”

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The candidates themselves haven’t escaped scandals of their own, both pointing towards scandals connected to USC. Caruso accused Bass of corruption by accepting a 95,000 scholarship at USC’s School of Social Work, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that Bass was offered the scholarship before applying to the program. In turn, Bass has hit Caruso, a former USC Board of Trustees chairman, with allegations of mishandling dozens of sexual assault charges that were filed against former USC gynecologist George Tyndall.

As for the celebrity endorsement battle in this race—so very important in this town—we leave you with a tweet that summarizes the divide.

Initial results from Tuesday’s election will be posted by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk shortly after 8 p.m.—though experts caution voters not to read into those results too much with millions of vote-by-mail ballots still to be counted.

City New Service contributed to this story

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