Billionaire developer Rick Caruso filed to run for mayor of Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, ending months of speculation and shaking up the crowded race to succeed Eric Garcetti.
A onetime Republican, Caruso is best known as the builder of the Grove and the Americana at Brand shopping centers, among others. He is also a former Los Angeles city commissioner, and has flirted with a run for mayor for the better part of two decades. With his ability to spend almost unlimited funds, Caruso immediately becomes a top contender in the campaign, perhaps second only to frontrunner Karen Bass.
Jay Sures, co-president of UTA, is hosting the first entertainment industry event in support of Caruso’s candidacy at his home on Feb. 23. Other Caruso supporters in the industry include CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd, who is a longtime friend, and Dana Walden, Disney’s chairman of television entertainment.
“I truly believe there is going to be overwhelming support in the entertainment community for Rick,” Sures told Variety. “I believe at the end of the day people are going to look at Rick’s track record of accomplishing big projects and say that he’s better suited for the job.”
Caruso has long expressed his affinity for the entertainment business, and particularly for Walt Disney, whom he has often cited as a key influence.
Caruso has been making preparations to run for several months, lining up a full team of political consultants and strategists, and announcing last month that he had re-registered as a Democrat. He faced a Saturday deadline to file his intention to run in the June 7 primary, and is expected to kick off his campaign in earnest early next week.
Caruso is expected to pitch himself as best suited to clean up the city, and to focus on the issues of homelessness and crime. His supporters see a parallel between this campaign and the 1993 race that followed the civil unrest of 1992. In that campaign, businessman Richard Riordan ran on the slogan “tough enough to turn L.A. around.” This time, Caruso plans to argue that his rivals are too mired in the status quo to fix it.
Caruso has nearly run for mayor twice before. In late 2011, he switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent, in what was seen as a step toward running in 2013. He spent many months considering the idea, and his political consultants went so far as to inquire about TV ad rates before he ultimately pulled the plug.
This time, he is working with Ace Smith and Sean Clegg of Bearstar Strategies, whose clients have included Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Bass, a six-term congresswoman from L.A., has lined up support from a broad swath of entertainment industry donors, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jennifer Aniston and J.J. Abrams.
Councilmen Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino and City Attorney Mike Feuer are also in the running. Feuer held a news conference on Zoom on Friday, in which he cited Caruso’s changes in political affiliation as a sign of “poll-driven vacillation on what should be core values.”
“Mr. Caruso has a lot of money and I’m sure he’s going to spend it,” Feuer said, noting that many other rich businessmen have run for office, only to expose themselves as political “dilettantes.” “Voters always see through that,” Feuer said.
Buscaino, who has made cracking down on homelessness the centerpiece of his campaign, issued a statement attacking Caruso from the right. Buscaino attacked Caruso for holding an “elite, star-studded fundraiser” for D.A. George Gascón, a liberal reformer who is facing a recall effort.