Voters today are choosing the 43rd mayor of Los Angeles who will grapple with a homeless crisis, a series of corruption scandals and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The race is widely viewed as dominated by U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass and wealthy developer Rick Caruso.
The nine candidates facing off on Tuesericday, June 7 also include L.A. City Councilman Kevin de Leon, who has run a robust campaign, as well as community activists and business people also seeking to replace termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti.
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After the ballot was printed, three other L.A. mayoral candidates dropped out – L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and businessman Ramit Varma – but they are still on the ballot. Those candidates now support one, or the other, of the two front-runners Caruso and Bass.
The nine candidates still vying for the job are: Karen Bass, Rick Caruso, Kevin de Leon, business executive Craig E. Greiwe; business owner John “Jsamuel’ Jackson; attorney and citizen advocate Andrew Kim; social justice advocate Alex Gruenenfelder Smith; community activist Gina Viola; and Realtor and community advocate Mel Wilson.
A frontrunner could be elected outright if they earn more than 50% of the votes on Tuesday. But that’s unlikely due to the large number of candidates. Instead, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff in the November general election.
Voters have been hammered by mailers and political ads. As of June 1, Caruso, the billionaire mall developer of Americana Glendale and The Grove had spent a record $40 million, funding extensive mailers, television ads and online streaming platforms. Others couldn’t match his unprecedented spending, but Bass has spent more than $3.2 million — more common for a leading mayoral candidate.
His exposure helped Caruso leap from polling at 6% reported in a Loyola Marymount poll in early February, to a close race against Bass in a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted May 24 to May 31 and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. Both polled above 30%, with Bass having a slight advantage.
A significant percentage of voters are undecided. Among the candidates who hope to break through to those undecided voters is Los Angeles City Councilman De Leon, who could arguably come from behind. He benefits from his background as a previous leader of the California State Senate.
With more than 40,000 Angelenos estimated to be without a stable place to live other than a shelter bed, vehicle, tent or other makeshift protection, homelessness is the top issue for most candidates. Most have touted plans to help people get off the streets by increasing shelters, building affordable housing, and expanding mental health and drug addiction services.
In hopes of quickly and permanently removing encampments rising throughout the city, some candidates focus on enforcing laws that prohibit living on the streets.
The next mayor will tackle numerous other serious troubles, including the need to restore trust in government after a string of corruption scandals at Los Angeles City Hall. One scandal is related to development projects, dubbed Operation Casino Royale by FBI officials, and another involved kickbacks and conflicts of interest that led to an FBI investigation into the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the city and its Department of Water and Power.
The election also comes as many Angelenos adjust to a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a historically tight housing market that makes it difficult for many to find housing — both renters and buyers.
Several candidates want to maintain or increase the number of LAPD officers, while some say the city overspends on LAPD and fails to adequately fund services that can make communities safer.
Caruso said he would hire 1,500 more police officers and restore the police budget. To tackle corruption, Caruso says he would appoint an ethics czar. Bass’s public safety strategy calls for expanding the LAPD budget, including by hiring more civilian staff to free up more sworn officers to be on patrol and in the community.
Several candidates are proposing changes amid growing concern over police misconduct and brutality, reflected in protests by Angelenos in 2020 after an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer. One is to expand L.A.’s pilot program that taps social workers to respond to incidents when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis.
Election 2022: LA mayoral race comes down to who can address homeless, corruption, crimeElection 2022: Bass and Caruso may be LA mayoral frontrunners, but they aren’t alone on the ballot