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.
In early returns, the vote was split almost evenly, with Bass taking 50.8% to Caruso’s 49.2%. The ballot counting will not be complete on Tuesday night, and a winner may not be clear for some time.
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, notable, 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 trailing badly in early returns, 63%-37%.
(Pictured: Karen Bass, Rick Caruso)
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