Karen Bass and Rick Caruso Vie to Be Los Angeles‘ Next Mayor

Early returns show Caruso with a narrow edge with 51.2% of the vote to Bass' 48.8%

karen bass rick caruso
Mario Tama/Getty Images | Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Karen Bass and Rick Caruso are in a close battle to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, as voters proved highly divided over who is best equipped to tackle the city’s homelessness crisis.

As of Wednesday morning, Caruso held a narrow edge with 51.2% to 48.8% for Bass. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder will post the next update to the count on Friday, and a winner may not be clear for some time.

In the June primary, Caruso held a single-digit lead over Bass in the initial returns, only for Bass to surpass him as ballots were tallied over the next several days.

Bass struck an optimistic tone in speaking to her supporters on Tuesday night at the Hollywood Palladium, saying she was fighting for the soul of the city.

“It’s gonna be a long night, and it might take a few days, but when we win –” and the crowd erupted in cheers. “We will win, because we’re going to build a new Los Angeles… Together we want to have a City Hall that serves all the people.”

Caruso addressed his supporters shortly thereafter, and he also projected confidence about the eventual outcome.

“This election has always been about those who have felt left behind and unheard,” he said. “Let me tell you, I hear you and change will happen.”

After midnight, Caruso tweeted: “I am confident that once every vote is counted, the momentum we saw throughout this campaign will send me to the Mayor’s office to fight for all Angelenos.”

Paul Mitchell, a leading authority on California election data, said on Twitter that the race was too close to call.

“And if anyone tells you right now that they know ballots are gonna shift to Bass post Election Day, or shift to Caruso… let’s be clear: they don’t. I don’t,” he wrote on Tuesday night. “Nobody does. Not yet.”

Bass, a six-term congresswoman from South L.A., held a narrow edge over Caruso in the most recent Los Angeles Times poll. But Caruso was making significant gains among undecided voters in the closing weeks of the race, as he poured more than $100 million into the race, saturating Southern California airwaves with TV, digital and radio advertising.

Bass has pitched herself as the only true pro-choice Democrat in the race, noting that Caruso had only joined the Democratic Party the month before entering the race.

Caruso, meanwhile, argued that Bass represented the “status quo,” and that he had an outsider’s vision and ability to address homelessness. The two are vying to succeed Eric Garcetti, who is heading out to become the U.S. ambassador to India after nearly 10 years as L.A. mayor.

In the L.A. Times poll, 40% of voters thought Caruso would do a better job handling homelessness, compared to 31% for Bass. Caruso also held a 41%-28% edge on the issue of crime.

But Bass was rated more favorably overall, with 50% of voters having a favorable view of her compared to 35% with a negative view. Caruso was seen as a more divisive figure, with 43% having a favorable opinion and 42% having a negative opinion.

The race has divided Hollywood. Mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg put $1.85 million into a committee supporting Bass. She also won support from J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Rosario Dawson and Shonda Rhimes, among many others. Caruso, meanwhile, got the backing of Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, CAA honcho Bryan Lourd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry and, notably, Katzenberg’s former DreamWorks SKG partner, David Geffen.

In Los Angeles County, Sheriff Alex Villanueva was facing a tough race for re-election against Robert Luna, the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department. Villanueva has had a controversial four years in office, clashing with the entire county Board of Supervisors and launching investigations into that board that critics charged were politically motivated.

Villanueva was losing by a tally of 57%-43% as of Wednesday morning.

(Pictured: Karen Bass, Rick Caruso)

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