(Bloomberg) — Democratic US Representative Karen Bass was elected as the first woman and second Black mayor of Los Angeles, against billionaire businessman Rick Caruso.
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Bass led with 53.1% of the vote, compared to 46.9% for Caruso, according to the county registrar’s office. The Associated Press announced Bass the winner Wednesday, ending more than a week of suspension from the Nov. 8 election.
Bass was working in her office in Los Angeles when she found out the news. Caruso’s campaign said it wanted Bass to congratulate her.
“The voters have spoken,” Caruso said in a statement. “There will be more to come from the movement we built, but right now, as a city we need to rally around the Mayor-elect and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face.”
The race was much tighter than expected when Caruso ran out of steam in the final weeks of the campaign after spending more than $100 million, mostly his own money, much more more than Bass. Caruso, armed with a law-and-order message, taunted voters angry about the worsening homeless crisis, threatening to throw out a Democratic establishment that has ruled the progressive city for 20 years.
Still, the congressman remained the favorite for six terms, enjoying the support of top Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
Bass “was able to stand up to the ruling coalition,” said Fernando Guerra, founding director of the Center for Los Angeles Studies at Loyola Marymount University. “She represents the aspirations of Los Angeles. She represents how LA would like to see itself.”
Both candidates focused on the two biggest concerns for voters in the second-largest US city: a spike in violent crime and a worsening homelessness crisis, with about 42,000 people living on the streets.
Bass ran on a platform that emphasized her beginnings as a community organizer and her experience as a veteran legislator in Sacramento and Washington.
A longtime critic of the “police defunding” movement that swept parts of the Democratic party in 2020, Bass said she wants to shift 250 cops to patrol from desk jobs, hire more civilians to take their place and take the force back to its authorized. level 9,700. The 69-year-old also pledged to shelter 17,000 homeless people in her first year. She plans to appoint a homelessness chief and end the encampments that plague the city.
Read more: The Bass sees the city under pressure from the bad business climate.
Bass will take over from two-term Mayor Eric Garcetti and become only the second Black person in the role, after Tom Bradley.
In her new job, she will face a city grappling with renewed racial tension after three members of the Los Angeles City Council were caught making racist comments in a leaked recording, leading to the resignation of its president. The other two council members refused calls to resign.
Although Bass is likely to find allies on the council, the Los Angeles mayor’s role is less powerful than his counterparts in other areas, such as New York. That could hinder her ability to make changes briskly. The city’s mayor, for example, does not have the authority to green-light construction projects, including homeless shelters, without approval from local council members — and works alongside a separate county board of supervisors, which controls most social services.
Caruso, 63, a developer of luxury malls and former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, tapped into the anger and frustration about public safety, and was even ahead in the early voting count when the polls closed. He promised to declare a homeless emergency on his first day in office and said he would use his skills as an executive to clean up the city. But critics seized on his past donations to pro-life Republican lawmakers and questioned the timing of his registering as a Democrat just weeks before announcing his bid.
“LA is still a very progressive city,” said Dan Schnur, who teaches political communication at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
–With assistance from Christopher Palmeri and John Gittelsohn.
(Comment from Caruso is updated in the fourth paragraph.)
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