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LA mayoral race: Ballots begin to arrive in the mail

Outside the Los Angeles Sentinel offices last week, black religious leaders in South Los Angeles and U.S. Representative James Clyburn (DS.C.) took turns proclaiming their support for Rep. Karen Bass in her run for the town hall.

“The faith community will rally around her. We will come out in force to push souls to the polls,” Reverend KW Tulloss said before quickly correcting himself and adding, to laughter, “Souls to the mailbox. We understand what is at stake.”

This revision may have spoiled the poetry of Tulloss’ appeal, but it hammered home a point that Bass and other candidates will make this week: The vote is already upon us.

Ballots are now mailed to every registered voter and may soon be submitted in drop boxes across town or returned by mail.

“The election ends on June 7,” Bass said. “So our work starts now to communicate with voters and to make sure that voters deliver those ballots. You don’t even have to go out to vote anymore. You can vote from home.

It remains to be seen, of course, how many voters will turn out and who they will support. But with a month to go, the race is much different than it was at the start of 2022.

At that time, many saw the race as Bass to lose. Now she and a slew of other candidates must face billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who has paid $25 million – four times more than all of his competitors combined – in the self-funded pursuit of a job he’s flirted with for years. .

A recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and The Times shows Bass and Caruso statistically tied with others far behind; notably, nearly four in 10 likely voters said they were undecided. Unless a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two will face each other in the November general election.

This mayoral race is unprecedented in several ways: Money has flowed like never before. The new postal voting system, instituted during the pandemic, could significantly increase turnout. It will also be the first mayoral primary in more than a century, held in an even-numbered year to coincide with state and national elections, which could also boost turnout.

It’s unclear if anyone can challenge the favorites. A late push is the hope of candidates such as City Council members Joe Buscaino and Kevin de León, City Atty. Mike Feuer and upstart activist Gina Viola, all of whom vote in single digits.

Almost all of the candidates are Democrats and this primary is apparently nonpartisan, but the attacks on Caruso have taken a decidedly partisan turn and are likely to intensify as the race enters its final weeks.

A campaign consultant pointed to 2005, when internal polls showed State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) in single digits eight weeks before the election. A week after Election Day, after Hertzberg ran ads, Times polls showed him second and he comes lack the second round, coming third behind James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa with nearly 22% of the vote.

But Caruso has been virtually alone on the airwaves in English, Spanish and Korean since entering the race in February, covering TV, radio and social media with a simple message: “I’m running for mayor, because i love LA Starting Day 1, let’s clean it up. …and we’re going to do it together.

That pitch has been supercharged by the roughly $18 million he will likely have spent by mid-May. This went largely undisproved until late April, when Feuer and Buscaino aired their own television ads.

Trying to make up for the bloated chests of Caruso, Feuer, Buscaino, Bass and De León have been something of a traveling bunch, going together from one in-person forum or Zoom town hall to another reeling off stats and lines well practiced on what they’ll do to right the ills of the city.

Caruso avoided these events – focusing more on private sessions with business and community leaders as well as the ubiquitous advertisements. Its overall message was disciplined, focusing almost exclusively on crime and homelessness. At times he spoke in hyperbolic terms about the city’s crime and dangerousness, but his rhetoric resonated with voters.

“What Rick is doing in a savvy way is tapping into a lot of the concerns and fears that people have about public safety in Los Angeles right now,” said Jeremy Oberstein, a political consultant who until now ‘at the beginning of this year, was the Chief Comptroller Ron Galperin. Staff.

“I had conversations with people over the weekend in the western part of the [San Fernando] Valley and we are very concerned about public safety. We worry a lot about going to parks and shopping malls and even walking home or entering our homes from our car.

In the only two televised debates featuring Caruso, his rivals attacked his wealth, his work as a developer, and the fact that he was a Republican.

Rick Caruso waves at the start of last week’s mayoral debate at Cal State Los Angeles.

(Ringo Chiu/For The Time)

Yet homelessness and crime continue to dominate all other issues. The two favorites present radically different ways of approaching them.

Caruso, a former Police Commission chairman who regularly touts the job in ads, says he wants to hire 1,500 new officers to police the streets. Bass, who first made a name for himself creating a nonprofit community in South Los Angeles and criticizing police misconduct, wants to move 250 LAPD officers from clerical and patrol jobs, while ensuring that the department returns to its authorized strength of 9,700 officers. (There were 9,375 sworn staff late April.) She also said she wants the department to hire more detectives and investigators, noting that the LAPD solved just over half of the city’s murders in 2020.

On homelessness, Caruso lambasted the bureaucratic system and elected leaders who he said have done little to address the crisis. He emphasizes his management experience and a desire to quickly add 30,000 housing units, including several shelter beds.

Bass, too, wants to increase the number of beds for the homeless – by 15,000 – and, like Caruso, recognizes the need for laws to govern where people can and cannot pitch a tent, although she has expressed a certain discomfort with the current approach to the city. She promotes her work helping foster children, arguing that she would be able to leverage her experience and connections at the state and federal levels to bring more help to the city.

Buscaino pushed a pro-law enforcement agenda to get homeless people off the streets while adding more beds. Feuer says it’s realistic to add about 3,000 new beds a year during his first term to provide shelter for everyone.

De León has lobbied for the city to build 25,000 temporary and permanent housing by 2025. He has also embarked on a high-profile quest to clean up encampments in his neighborhood and get people into various forms of shelter and of accommodation.

But those ambitious pledges don’t necessarily align with the fact that most homeless people don’t want to live in group shelters, according to a Rand Corp study. published last week.

As the race heated up, overcoming the advantages of Caruso and Bass was hard work for the other eight prospects on the ballot.

“The other candidates really struggled to stand out,” said Sara Sadhwani, assistant professor of politics at Pomona College. “They each have their impressive resumes and accomplishments behind them. But campaigns are about reaching out to people who don’t already know you, and that’s the challenge they have in front of them.

Over the next month, candidates will need to get their name out there through a mix of publicity, events and canvassing. Bass recently opened a campaign headquarters and is asking for volunteers to make calls for her and knock on doors. De León and Feuer traveled around the city to meet with voters.

Caruso poured an additional $2.5 million into his campaign last week, and his broadcast and social media blitz shows no signs of slowing down. The other candidates have all benefited from the city’s generous public finance campaign matching program.

The result is that Bass has nearly $3 million, which she must spend before primary day or return the money to donors. The airwaves will also likely be filled with posts that will chase her as well. An Independent Expenditure Committee finance to the tune of $2 million by the LAPD rank-and-file officers’ union is expected to spend most of that money on ads attacking Bass.

Caruso will also be in the sights. A separate independent spending committee backing Bass raised just under $1 million and released its first announcement last week attacking her views on abortion and her ties to Republicans.

Caruso became a Democrat this year but left the Republican Party a decade ago. Last week, he said he was “pro-choice” and strongly disagreed with the proposed decision overruling Roe vs. Wade. Everyone runs, including Bass, Posted statements affirming their support for the right to abortion and castigated the draft decision.

All nominees emphasized that they had the vision and skills to bring the city together and right its wrongs. It will soon be up to the voters to decide.

“LA is at a crossroads,” Bass said last week at the event with the faith leaders. “Which direction are we going?”

Times editor Julia Wick contributed to this report.