Election 2022: Bass and Caruso square off in LA mayoral race

With political corruption, homelessness, housing affordability and public safety top of mind for Angelenos, voters will be deciding over the next few weeks whether to cast their vote for U.S. Rep. Karen Bass or real estate developer Rick Caruso to lead Los Angeles as its 43rd mayor.

Bass, who previously served as California’s state Assembly speaker and is currently serving her sixth term in Congress, was an early frontrunner in the race and received 43% of the votes in the June primary – 7 percentage points more than Caruso.

While she touts her years in elected office as a plus – Bass says she’ll tap into her existing relationships with county, state and federal officials to advocate on behalf of the city – her opponent has portrayed her as too entrenched in the current political system and says Angelenos would wind up with the current status quo should they elect her.

A political newcomer who has largely self-funded his own campaign, Caruso, a billionaire, says he won’t be beholden to anyone. Given his background as a developer and businessman, he believes he’s got the know-how and gumption to build more temporary housing quickly to deal with the homelessness crisis and to clean up the streets of L.A.

But the more than $70 million he’s poured into his campaign – nearly all of which is his own money – has also been a liability for Caruso, whose critics accuse him of attempting to buy the election.

The most recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll conducted in late September found that among all registered voters in L.A., Bass’ lead over Caruso had narrowed to just 3-percentage points (34% v. 31%). The congresswoman had led by 12 points in an earlier IGS poll over the summer.

However, among likely voters, the latest poll showed Caruso still trailing by double digits – 46% of those voters expressed support for Bass versus 31% for Caruso.

Whoever wins the Nov. 8 general election will succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is termed out.

The following is a primer on their competition to become the next mayor of the nation’s second-largest city, including a look at their backgrounds, positions on various issues and who’s supporting them.


Bass, 69, was an emergency room physician assistant who had treated many victims of violent crimes when she founded Community Coalition in 1990 in response to the crack-cocaine epidemic. The South L.A.-based organization works to address the root causes that lead to poverty, crime and violence.

After years as a community activist, Bass entered politics. From 2005 to 2010, she served in the state Assembly, where she became the first Black woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker of any state legislature. Since 2011, she has served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing parts of Los Angeles.

If elected, Bass would become the first female mayor in L.A. history.

Mayoral candidate Karen Bass speaks during a rally for reproductive rights and critical issues ranging from voting rights to climate and economic justice at Mariachi Plaza in East Los Angeles on Saturday, October 8, 2022.(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

“In terms of why voters should vote for me, look at the problems L.A. is facing right now — homelessness, affordability, public safety and now potential racial (divisions),” Bass said in an interview. “We are in a crisis over race. If you look at those issues, I have the breadth and the experience in those issues.”

Bass says the main difference between her and her opponent is that she’s “a lifelong pro-choice Democrat,” a dig at Caruso who was previously registered as either a Republican or no party preference before registering as a Democrat shortly before announcing his mayoral bid.

Caruso has been criticized for donating to politicians who do not support abortion rights, but he has repeatedly said he’s pro-choice and that he left the Republican Party because it no longer represents his values.

He’s described himself as socially liberal, noting that he supported Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

As to why voters should elect him, Caruso, 63, points to his service on city commissions and said he is more familiar with how City Hall operates than Bass.

LA mayoral candidate Rick Caruso visits a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce event on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“I have a proven track record of working for the city in multiple departments,” he said. “I understand how the city works. I have a proven track record of working in very large and complex organizations.”

He twice served on the city’s Department of Water and Power Commission, including once as the commission’s president, to help bring the department out of financial insolvency.

He also served as president of the Police Commission about two decades ago. During his tenure, he worked to reform the Los Angeles Police Department, played a role in the city’s decision to hire William Bratton as police chief and advocated for community policing. According to Caruso, the city saw a 30% drop in crime during his tenure.

Professionally, the real estate tycoon is best known for developing The Grove shopping mall in the Fairfax District, The Americana at Brand in Glendale, other high-end, luxury shopping centers and apartments, as well as a hotel resort.


The recent leak of a secretly taped conversation revealed three city councilmembers and a powerful labor leader, who are all Latino, met privately a year ago to discuss how the city’s redistricting map might be redrawn in their favor – at the expense of weakening Black voter representation.

In the recording, then-Council President Nury Martinez – who resigned from office this week under public pressure – also could be heard making racist comments about Councilmember Mike Bonin’s young Black son, a toddler. Racist and homophobic sentiments about other groups in L.A. were also expressed, largely by Martinez.

Caruso and Bass both called for Martinez to step down and both have called for the other two councilmembers involved, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, to resign.

Both candidates also support an independent redistricting commission for the city. The city undergoes a redistricting process every 10 years to redraw its district map, which determines which neighborhoods are represented by which councilmembers, and often alters which communities end up grouped together in redrawn districts.

In Los Angeles, members of the city’s redistricting commission are appointed by elected officials, including the mayor and city councilmembers, and the council can veto the commission’s decisions – which critics say gives too much power to councilmembers to reshape districts to their own liking.

The leaked audio is only the latest in a series of scandals that have plagued City Hall in recent years stemming from allegations of bribery and kickbacks. One former councilmember, Mitchell Englander, was sent to prison and was released this year, and another ex-councilmember, José Huizar, awaits trial in 2023.

To clean up corruption, Caruso – who has pledged not to accept campaign donations from corporations or lobbyists – said he’d appoint an independent ethics czar to ensure city business is free of conflicts of interest, publish the mayor’s official calendar daily so everyone can see who he’s meeting with and place his own business holdings in a blind trust.

His plan also calls for removing the city council from making land-use decisions, prohibiting appointed commissioners from meeting with lobbyists and demanding that councilmembers and their staff publicly report their schedules, meetings and correspondences with all applicants, lobbyists and others who could benefit financially from actions taken by the city.

“I’ve served the city of L.A. under three mayors. … Not one ethical violation. How about that?Caruso said of his record during a Sept. 21 mayoral debate. “That’s what I’m going to bring to City Hall – zero tolerance.”

During that same debate, Bass said that Norm Eisen, who served as the White House ethics czar during the Obama Administration, has agreed to conduct a full review of L.A.’s city policies if she is mayor.

“I will ask any nominee of mine to sign an ethics pledge and we will make sure that we have a very clean administration,” she added.


Nearly 42,000 people in L.A. are experiencing homelessness.

To address the crisis, Bass has proposed housing more than 17,000 individuals her first year as mayor. This would be achieved through a combination of creating new housing units and drawing upon existing ones to provide interim beds and permanent housing. She estimates the price tag for this proposal to be $292 million the first year, reflecting capital and operational costs for the interim housing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Caruso has proposed adding 30,000 new shelter beds within 300 days. This would come in the form of tiny homes or sleeping pods housed within underutilized buildings, such as warehouses, with walls as dividers between the pods. He estimates it would cost $743 million to $874 million to build the units and says the county should pay ongoing operating expenses.

Caruso also proposes hiring 500 case workers to provide mental health and drug addiction services to individuals in need of treatment once they’re off the streets. Bass’ plan talks about providing permanent supportive housing, where individuals receive affordable housing assistance and other support services.

On the issue of homeless encampments, Caruso said during the September debate that “at a certain point in time” the city must clear them.

“Encampments are unfair to the community where they are – to the residential communities, business communities, parks, beaches,” he said. “You can’t operate a city that way. And we’re unfair to the homeless, allowing them to be on the streets and die on the streets.”

Both he and Bass support the city council’s recent decision to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers.

To help get folks off the streets, Bass has proposed hiring people who formerly experienced homelessness to conduct outreach, particularly to unhoused individuals who are resistant to accepting services. The congresswoman has spoken out against the idea of arresting the unhoused.

“At the end of the day, you can’t criminalize poverty,” she said at last month’s mayoral debate. “You would have them in jail. They’d be there three days. They’d be right back out on the street.”

Housing affordability

As a developer, Caruso says he understands the city’s process to get plans and permits for new housing approved. He says he can identify and eliminate red tape that slows down the process for getting new units built, and that he knows how to build more efficiently.

He proposes waiving certain discretionary reviews and developer fees to encourage more people to convert existing buildings into affordable housing and providing incentives to certain project applicants who agree to accept housing vouchers that help low-income residents pay their rent. Among his other proposals, Caruso has suggested providing city subsidies to supplement other housing vouchers for tenants and providing low-interest loans and partnering with community organizations to develop multi-family housing projects.

Bass’ plan calls for creating a preservation account funded by payments from developers to purchase apartments when an agreement with the building’s owner that guarantees that a certain number of units remain affordable is due to expire.

She also proposed streamlining the approval process to build permanent supportive housing or 100% affordable housing projects so that units get built faster, as well as the creation of an Affordable Housing Strike Team within her administration to expedite such projects.

Public safety

Last year, the city recorded its highest number of homicides in 15 years, a record that could potentially be broken again this year. And with frequent images of smash-and-grab or follow-home robberies on the news since the pandemic began, Angelenos rank public safety among their chief concerns.

Meanwhile, although the LAPD is authorized to employ up to 9,700 officers, it’s down several hundred officers at the moment.

To address this, Bass proposes hiring more civilian officers to work desk jobs, thus freeing up at least 250 sworn officers currently in such assignments to patrol the streets. She’s also talked about increasing police presence “immediately in neighborhoods and areas that want to have an increased presence.”

Caruso wants to hire 1,500 more officers, which he believes can be achieved over two to three years. But to convince officers to want to work for the LAPD, he said there needs to be a cultural shift in which officers are more respected. At the moment, he said, many officers don’t want to work for the department.


Bass is endorsed by a number of big-name Democrats with national profiles, including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Among local officials, she’s endorsed by several councilmembers and City Attorney Mike Feuer. Bass has also received the support of a number of labor organizations, including the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Caruso is endorsed by the unions representing LAPD officers and the city’s firefighters. He’s also gotten the backing of Councilman Joe Buscaino, a former police officer.

Additionally, Caruso is endorsed by Avance Democratic Club, whose mission is to build Latino political power and civic engagement in L.A. County. Bass apologized to Avance a day after asking Caruso during a debate how much he paid for the club’s endorsement. (Bass later said in an interview, after Avance’s president denounced Bass’ accusation, that her comment was intended to be an insult directed at Caruso, not at Avance.)

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The candidates have also spent heavily on their campaigns.

Through Sept. 24, Bass had spent about $6.05 million on the race, including the primary election, while Caruso had spent $62.6 million – more than 10 times his opponent, according to filings with the city’s Ethics Commission.

It’s unclear by how much those figures will grow by the time the election is over, but contributions continue to come in for both campaigns.

Through Oct. 13, Bass reported raising about $6.4 million while Caruso had raised about $75.6 million, of which all but about $1 million came from himself.

Related links

Bass and Caruso slam each other in KNX debate that dealt with Latino voters, Scientology, police, homelessness
Karen Bass, Rick Caruso address LA City Hall scandal, call for unity in final mayoral debate
Bass apologizes for accusing Caruso of paying for Latino group’s endorsement
LA mayoral candidate Karen Bass linked to USC bribery and fraud case
Karen Bass gets President Biden and Vice President Harris’ endorsement for LA mayor

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