U.S. Rep. Karen Bass has defeated developer Rick Caruso to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, making her the first woman to lead the city.
Rep. Karen Bass has made history as Los Angeles’ first female mayor overcoming more than $104 million in spending by her opponent Rick Caruso to win the race.
With over 70% of the vote tallied, Bass had amassed an insurmountable lead of almost 47,000 votes. She had 53.1%, with Rick Caruso notching 46.9%.
The six-term congresswoman, who represents south and west Los Angeles, had the option to assemble a strong coalition of Black voters in South Los Angeles and White progressives on the city’s west side to beat the shopping mall magnate.
Karen Bass elected as LA’s new mayor
Karen Bass, who is the second Black person to be elected as mayor of the city, was working in her congressional office in Los Angeles when she was informed by an aide she had come out on top in the race. Bass later released a statement, saying she will “hit the ground running on Day One.”
“This evening, I received a gracious call from Rick Caruso, who is someone who I hope continues his civic participation in the city that we both love. I have great respect for his commitment to serving the people of Los Angeles,” Karen Bass statement said. “The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: it is time for change and it is time for urgency.”
“To the people of Los Angeles, my message is this: We are going to solve homelessness. We are going to prevent and respond urgently to crime,” Karen Bass said. “Los Angeles is no longer going to be unaffordable for working families – good jobs and affordable housing construction are on the way. And know this – that work has already begun.”
Rick Caruso said in a statement that “the voters have spoken,” adding that he was pleased with his campaign.
“There will be more to come from the movement we built, but for now, as a city, we need to unite around Mayor-elect Bass and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face. Congratulations, Karen, and God-speed,” the statement said in part.
In her campaign, Karen Bass emphasized the depth of her policy experience and her reputation as a collaborative listener and legislator. She likewise featured her early work as a physician assistant in the emergency room and her experience uniting Black and Latino community organizers in South LA in the mid-1990s to address the root causes of crime and the crack epidemic – work she did through the nonprofit she established, Community Coalition.
Joe Biden had vetted Karen Bass, the then-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to be his running mate in 2020 as she helped lead the negotiations on legislation to make more noteworthy police responsibility following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Karen Bass – a Democrat who was on President-elect Joe Biden’s shortlist for VP – defeated more than $100 million in spending by the billionaire Rick Caruso’s campaign while contending that she would be a coalition builder who could recuperate a troubled city of almost 4 million.
The election tested whether voters in the vigorously Democratic city were ready to get some distance from their liberal tendencies and embrace a methodology that would place a strong emphasis on public security.
Rick Caruso, a former Republican who became a Democrat shortly before entering the race, had represented a turn to the political right. He contended that Karen Bass and other longtime politicians were part of the issue that led L.A. into different emergencies. He vowed to grow the police department to manage increasing crime percentages and immediately get omnipresent homeless encampments off the roads.
She had won the respect of her Democratic partners and her constituents with her decades of experience shaping public policy in regions like child welfare, foster care, and prison reform.
Karen Bass contended that her experience would give her an exceptional viewpoint and understanding of the issues with homelessness in Los Angeles. She said her experience in the emergency room had given her a depth of understanding of the issue that her essential opponents, including Rick Caruso, didn’t have.
Karen Bass, a former state Assembly leader, enjoyed the benefit of being a lifelong Democrat in a city where Republicans are almost invisible. She was supported by Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and the Democratic establishment.
The election had historical dimensions, as Karen Bass will become the first woman and second Black person to hold the job, after former Mayor Tom Bradley, who held the post from 1973 to 1993.
She cast Rick Caruso as a political opportunist who had registered as a Democrat simply to work on his chances of winning the office. Taking note of his past donations to conservative Republicans, she and her partners attempted to bring up issues about his help for abortion rights – criticism Caruso said was unfair, unfounded, and an attack on his Catholic faith.
Rick Caruso had played with running for mayor for years after serving in other civic roles, including as a city police commissioner and the former head of the USC Board of Trustees. One of his greatest obstacles was his history as a former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat competing for the top job in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.
Yet, he held onto the disappointment that large numbers of the city’s voters are feeling about homelessness, crime, and corruption at City Lobby – spending tens of millions of dollars of his own cash on ads that depicted him as a fixer with the executive credentials to resolve those issues and work on the city’s proficiency and responsiveness.
While Karen Bass accused Rick Caruso of attempting to purchase the mayor’s office as they competed to supplant term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti, Caruso proposed that she and other “career politicians” had been insufficient and that it would take an outsider to clean up the city’s roads and accelerate efforts to shelter the homeless.
During the campaign, Karen Bass likewise featured her role as a dealmaker when she led the California State Assembly after the 2008 financial crisis – making budget decisions that procured her a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2010. She likewise made history in that job – becoming the first Black woman to serve as speaker of a state legislature in 2008.
She takes office next month as the city fights with an out-of-control homeless emergency and City Council faces a racism scandal that prompted the resignation of its former president and calls for the resignation of two additional members.
Karen Bass will replace Eric Garcetti, who will conclude two terms as mayor.