Liberal Los Angeles could take right turn in mayor's race
One of the leading candidates for mayor is Rick Caruso, a pro-business billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and is promising to expand spending on police, not defund them.
At another time, the high-end mall and resort developer would seem an unlikely choice to potentially lead the nation's second-most populous city, where democratic socialist Bernie Sanders was the runaway winner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. A progressive City Hall has embraced so-called sanctuary city protections for people who entered the U.S. illegally and "Green New Deal" climate policies.
But these are fraught times in Los Angeles, with more than 40,000 people living in trash-strewn homeless encampments and rusty RVs, distress over brazen smash-and-grab robberies and home invasions while inflation and taxes are gouging wallets -- gas in a region built on car travel has cracked $6 a gallon. Rents and home prices have soared.
Caruso is spending millions of his estimated $4.3 billion fortune to finance a seemingly nonstop display of TV and online ads to tap into voter angst. At issue is whether enough people will embrace his plans to add 1,500 police officers and promises to get unhoused people off the streets, while not recoiling from his vast wealth.
Twelve names are on the ballot for the primary election that ends June 7, though several candidates have dropped out and the race is shaping up as a fight between Caruso and Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who was on then-President elect Joe Biden's shortlist for vice president.
If no candidate clears 50% — which is likely with a crowded ballot — the top two finishers advance to a November runoff. Bass could become the first woman to hold the office and the second Black person.