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Karen Bass Wins Los Angeles Mayoral Race In Victory Over Billionaire Rick Caruso

Karen Bass is slated to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Karen Bass is slated to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti.
MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images via Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass is projected to win the Los Angeles mayoral race, proving that massive campaign spending isn’t always enough to eke out a victory in America’s second-biggest city.

Bass is slated to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was forced out by term limits, following a close contest against Rick Caruso, a billionaire commercial real estate tycoon who joined the Democratic party this year and dropped nearly $100 million in the race. He outspent her seven to one, largely with funds from his personal fortune.

The race was neck and neck up until Election Day, though Bass was slightly favored to come out on top. She’ll be the first Black female leader of LA.

Bass is one of the country’s most prominent Black female politicians and was a finalist on President Joe Biden’s shortlist of running mates in 2020. She has represented LA in Congress for five terms, handily winning more than 80% of the vote each time she ran. Before getting into politics, Bass worked as a physician assistant and made a name for herself organizing a response to South LA’s crack epidemic in the 1980s, successfully securing millions in government funding to address the crisis.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso campaigning in the Wilmington neighborhood on Nov. 4.
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso campaigning in the Wilmington neighborhood on Nov. 4.
Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Caruso’s government experience has been limited to leading a handful of city commissions, including those for police and utilities. But he’s more well known as the man behind some of Southern California’s most recognizable shopping centers and his position on the University of Southern California’s board of trustees.

He spent most of his adult life as a Republican and a few years as a registered nonpartisan before rebranding as a Democrat right before announcing his mayoral campaign earlier this year. Throughout the race, he sold himself to voters as a savvy political outsider who could accomplish what establishment Democrats couldn’t seem to get done.

Bass and Caruso spent much of their campaigns discussing two of LA voters’ biggest concerns: a homelessness crisis that keeps growing and a recent uptick in violent crime.

Caruso, right, speaks as Bass listens during a debate in Los Angeles on Oct. 6.
Caruso, right, speaks as Bass listens during a debate in Los Angeles on Oct. 6.
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Both presented ambitious plans for sheltering some of the city’s 40,000-plus homeless residents, with Bass citing her connections in Washington to secure federal housing vouchers and Caruso pointing to his history of leading civic projects during his city commission work. Bass pitched spending $292 million in her first year on the job to address the crisis, with the possibility of raising taxes to do so. Caruso proposed $843 million in that time period without raising taxes ― an idea that critics have said is simply not possible.

As for crime, neither said they’d heed progressives’ demands to reel in the city’s roughly $3 billion police department budget. But while Bass planned to keep the force under 10,000 officers, Caruso said he’d greatly expand it.

Bass nabs the job as LA weathers a very public scandal on its City Council. Last month, The Los Angeles Times published audio of three council members engaged in a crass and racist conversation with references to the young Black son of one of their colleagues. While the council’s then-President Nury Martinez resigned days later amid intense scrutiny, the two others involved ― Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo ― have refused to step down.

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