- The race for Los Angeles mayor is largely between the two front-runners: Billionaire developer Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass.
- If no single candidate gets 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will head to a November runoff.
- Homelessness, housing and crime are among the top issues for voters in L.A.
LOS ANGELES — Voters will have their say Tuesday in Los Angeles’ primary race for mayor – an election that could signal a shift in the second-most populated city in the country.
The Tuesday election could reveal more than who will succeed Eric Garcetti, who was nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to India, in a city known nationally as a progressive trendsetter.
A number of polls have signaled voters are concerned over the state and direction of the city amid increased headlines about crime and the spread of homelessness, which tops 40,000 in the city of 4 million. Many voters have expressed a loss in confidence in elected leaders and feelings of both frustration and worries over safety. Rent prices continue to rise, too, and gas averages more than $6 a gallon, among the most expensive prices in the country in a sprawling city known for long commutes.
Polls show a close contest as the pool of candidates has mostly centered their campaigns around those contentious issues, from housing and homelessness to crime and policing.
The race has featured celebrity endorsements and big-name politicians. Here’s what you need to know:
Who is running for Los Angeles mayor?
Twelve candidates qualified to appear on the June 7 ballot but the race is largely seen as being between a few Democrats.
Polls, including one released in April by the University of California, Berkeley, show a close race between the two frontrunners: Rep. Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso. Bass, 68, is a favorite of the party’s progressive wing, while Caruso, 63, is a political shape-shifter who calls himself a “centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat.”
Since Caruso, a Republican-turned-Democrat, announced his run in February, he’s poured money into advertisements, from cable TV to streaming services and YouTube. He’s also garnered a handful of celebrity and prominent activist endorsements, from reality star Kim Kardashian, rapper Snoop Dogg, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk to community activist Sweet Alice Harris and City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who ended his own bid for mayor before endorsing the billionaire.
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Caruso, who developed The Grove – a popular shopping and dining area in the city – along with other commercial properties, has centered his campaign on bolstering the Los Angeles Police Department with more officers and blasting the bureaucracy that he says has moved too slowly to stop homelessness and create more housing and shelters. He said he aims to end street homelessness, will declare a state of emergency over the crisis and has touted a goal to build 30,000 housing units in 300 days, many of which would be shelter beds.
Bass, a prominent House member who led on police reform policies and was among the potential candidates vetted to run as President Joe Biden’s vice president, has touted her Los Angeles roots, working as a community organizer during the crack epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.
If elected, Bass could become the first woman to hold the office and the second Black person.
She, too, has received a number of endorsements, including from former NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and The Los Angeles Times, which called her a battle-tested leader in a moment where politicians were seeking to pander to fear held by citizens.
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She has promised a comprehensive approach to homelessness, working to house 15,000 by the end of her first year in office and end encampments that have spread across the city. Bass has touted a different approach to the city’s crime and policing, hoping to hire civilians and social workers to take on some of the calls that officers would typically respond to, something she says would free up officers to concentrate on violent crimes and other calls. Bass also touts more investment in youth programs and a variety of measures she says aims to tackle the cycle of violence and crime in the city.
City Councilman Kevin de León has trailed in a distant third, despite a flurry of political endorsements and his background as the former leader of the state Senate. He’s the only major Latino candidate in a city that is almost 50% Hispanic.
What else is on the California ballot?
If no mayoral candidate gets 50% of the vote – which is likely on a crowded ballot –the top two finishers advance to a November runoff.
Bass and Caruso aren’t especially well-known in Los Angeles, a city that can be fairly indifferent to local politics. A big feat for candidates will be getting voters to turnout. About 80% of registered voters didn’t cast ballots in 2017 when Garcetti was reelected.
Along with the Los Angeles mayoral contest, voters across the state will weigh in on a number of other races and issues that could be seen as a bellwether for Democrats nationally amid concerns over crime and gun violence.
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In San Francisco, another intensely liberal city, voters will decide whether to recall progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Boudin ran on a campaign that included defunding the police but critics say he’s failed to prosecute repeat offenders as the city saw a rash of smash-and-grab robberies.
Statewide, critics are similarly eyeing Democratic state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is facing several challengers.