Rick Caruso Overtakes Karen Bass in L.A. Mayoral Poll

The poll found that Caruso tripled his likely voters, rising from eight percent to roughly 24 percent and passing Bass along the way

Rep. Karen Bass has lost her commanding lead over billionaire developer Rick Caruso, according to a poll ahead of the June 7 primary conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

In the poll, conducted shortly after the candidates took part in the March 22 mayoral debate, 24 percent of likely voters chose Caruso, while 23 percent went with Bass. By those numbers, if the primary were held today it would trigger a November runoff.

The March results are a drastic shift in favor of Caruso, who has tripled his eight percent showing from February’s Berkeley-Times poll. That survey saw Bass hovering around 30 percent.

City Council Member Kevin de León has seen a drop in support. He matched Caruso’s eight percent in February and is now deeper into third place with six percent of the vote.

None of the other nine candidates received more than two percent support of likely voters in a race where roughly 40 percent still say they are undecided. A runoff between any two top candidates will take place unless one receives more than 50 percent of the primary ballots.

Bass and Caruso’s marketing strategies may be a factor in the shift, as Caruso has spent a reported $9 million on television and digital advertising since he entered the race in February. Bass has yet to air any TV ads.

“Caruso has had the airwaves to himself,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll, told the Times. “It’s a classic case where he’s getting out in front, and he’s defining himself before his opponents can define him on their terms… Apparently, the advertising is getting people’s attention.” 

Caruso’s supporters are evenly distributed among Republicans, Democrats, and nonpartisan voters, which may reflect the fact that although he recently registrated as a Democrat he has a history as a Republican. Conversely, the overwhelming majority of Bass supporters are Democrats or otherwise left-leaning.

One major issue in the race between Caruso and Bass is crime. As the city’s crime rates continue to rise, even Bass has shifted to the right in some of her stated positions. She faced strong criticism from Black Lives Matter after last month’s debate, when Bass said that she would not defund the police but would instead add 200 more officers to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Of likely voters who supported Caruso in the new poll, 42 percent cited crime and public safety.

Bass, who is one of just two Black members of Congress from Los Angeles County, got the support of about half of likely Black voters and 40 percent of white liberals. White liberals represent three out of ten city voters while slightly fewer than one in ten are Black.

Caruso also holds a firm lead among whites who identify themselves as conservative or moderate.

So far, no candidate has taken a notable lead among Latinos, who represent one-fourth of likely voters. Roughly half said they were undecided, while a third of white and Black voters said the same.

“Latinos are going to be late deciders,” Sonja Diaz, the founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative, told the Times. “The fact that they’re undecided, in order to change that, there’s really going to have to be money and tailored messaging.”

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