Los Angeles mayoral election on the air three days after midterms | International

Businessman and billionaire Rick Caruso speaks to supporters at an election night event.DAVID MCNEW (AFP)

Not only the composition of the United States Congress is up in the air. So is the mayor of Los Angeles, one of the most important cities in the country and an electoral engine for Democrats. Three days after the midterm elections, the millions of people who live in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula still do not know who will be in charge for the next four years. The distance between the Democratic candidates who dispute it, Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, is only 0.5%, almost 2,700 votes. Local electoral authorities have asked for patience and have warned that it could take weeks for the results to be known.

“There are hundreds of thousands of votes yet to be counted… I remain cautiously optimistic on the numbers and look forward to the series of results to come in the coming weeks,” Caruso, a billionaire developer who has taken California’s Democratic elite by storm with one of the closest races in decades. The 63-year-old businessman disbursed 100 million of his fortune in a campaign in which Angelenos were fed up with issues such as the growing problem of the homeless and an increase of 11% in crimes a couple of years ago. and violence.

Caruso was an unknown months ago to most voters. Many of the analysts believed that Bass would have no problem defeating him and taking over from Eric Garcetti, who has been in the job for eight years. The candidate, a federal congresswoman experienced in social work in the south of the city, beat Caruso in the June primaries by seven points. If she wins, Bass would make history as the second black mayor in Los Angeles history, only after the legendary Tom Bradley, a former police officer whose grandfather was a slave. The competition officially started in August. Bass then took 12 points to her rival. The advantage vanished in months. Caruso is in the lead with less than 3,000 votes and almost 60% counted. Hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots are yet to be processed. The elections had a low participation, barely 25% of the registered voters in the city.

Vice President Kamala Harris smiles in front of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass (right) on Tuesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris smiles in front of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass (right) on Tuesday.ALLISON DINNER / POOL (EFE)

The alarms in the Democratic leadership have been lit in recent weeks. Bass took advantage of the last hours of his campaign showing off his access to the great figures of his party. In one of his closings, he had Senator Bernie Sanders as a guest, the north star among the party’s progressives. In mid-October, Bass accompanied Joe Biden at a rally in the Californian city. And even participated in a call photo-op, in which he accompanied the president to a Tijuana-style taco restaurant in the Westwood neighborhood. On the morning of the election, Vice President Kamala Harris was seen with Bass buying buns at a Los Angeles restaurant. The candidate always received the backing of the party’s top leadership.

His contender, however, built a strong-arm message that promises to end the filth and crime that has been taking over Los Angeles in recent months. Caruso, who made his political debut years ago as a Republican and in this race registered as a Democrat in order to advance, blamed these ills on the party that has governed the city uninterruptedly for more than 20 years. One of his stellar promises is to add 1,500 police officers to the already bulging body that the city has.

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His rallies were held at The Grove, the popular shopping mall in downtown Los Angeles. The stage, which has marble finishes, private security and cleaning crews 24 hours a day, invited his supporters to dream of a more orderly and clean city, aspects that he likes to highlight in the developments that bear his name. Throughout the campaign, he added the support of celebrities such as the Kardashians, singer Katy Perry, actor Chris Pratt, Gwyneth Paltrow and even the controversial Elon Musk, famous for leaving California fed up with his progressiveness, who described Caruso as “incredible ” in the social network that he is now trying to keep afloat.

It is impossible to govern Los Angeles and not have support from Hollywood. Bass also felt the shelter of influential figures in the sports and entertainment industry. Among these are Steven Spielberg, Ariana Grande, JJ Abrams, Jack Black and Magic Johnson, among others.

But his ties to traditional Democrats could prove toxic in recent weeks. Caruso took advantage of her debates with Bass to link her with the councilors involved in the racist scandal that rocked the local City Council. The conversation of three influential Latino council members was secretly recorded and leaked to Los Angeles Times. The private chat was full of cruel and demeaning comments against blacks and Mexicans. The controversy forced the resignation of the president of the Council. Caruso reminded voters that three of the participants in the conversation endorsed Bass. But the rivals nonetheless agreed that a new leadership in the city is necessary. Everything seems to indicate that this will take weeks to arrive.

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