Bass vs. Caruso: Los Angeles mayor’s race remains tight
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., speaks to volunteers and supporters at her campaign headquarters in Los Angeles. | Richard Vogel / AP

LOS ANGELES—Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso, candidates for the Los Angeles mayoralty, are still locked in a tight race.

Bass, a progressive Democratic congresswoman, could become the first Black woman to hold the job. The billionaire Caruso, a Republican-turned-Democrat, would represent a turn to the political right for the city of nearly four million.

At an election night rally with supporters, Bass warned that tabulating the votes could take several days but she expressed confidence, “We will win.”

“We are in a fight for the soul of our city,” Bass said to thunderous cheers. “We will win because we are going to build a new Los Angeles.”

The election has historical dimensions, coming as the City Council contends with a racism scandal that led to the resignation of its former president and calls for the resignation of two more members, an unabated homeless crisis, corruption probes, and widespread concern with crime.

Bass is a former state Assembly leader who has the advantage of being a lifelong Democrat in a city where Republicans are almost invisible. She was backed by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and the Democratic establishment. Bass promises to use her skills as a coalition builder to heal a wounded city.

Billionaire developer and Republican-turned-Democrat Rick Caruso. | Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via AP

Caruso campaigned on an abrupt change in direction, promising to expand the police department and quickly get ubiquitous homeless encampments off the streets.

The winner will replace beleaguered Democrat Eric Garcetti, who will conclude two uneven terms with his nomination to become U.S. ambassador to India stalled in the Senate, apparently over sexual misconduct allegations against a former top Garcetti adviser.

The race was shaped in large part by Caruso’s lavish spending—and his unavoidable advertising. City records show his campaign expenses topped $100 million, most of it financed with his own money.

Bass, with just a small fraction of that amount at her disposal, has said, “It’s not the power of the money, it’s the power of the people.”

City Hall has been in Democratic hands for decades. Caruso’s candidacy shares some similarities to 1993 when L.A. voters turned to Republican Richard Riordan to lead the city in the aftermath of the deadly 1992 riots that erupted after four white police officers were acquitted of assault in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King.

This article is largely drawn from reporting by Associated Press correspondent Michael R. Blood but includes information from the New York Times.