Developer Rick Caruso Jumps to Early Lead in LA’s Mayoral Race

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Billionaire developer Rick Caruso took a slight, early lead in the race against U.S. Rep. Karen Bass to become the 43rd mayor of Los Angeles, with the count still too close to call.

Caruso has 51.25 percent of the 492,670 votes counted as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the L.A. County Clerk. Both campaigns acknowledged the outcome of their race might not be known for days or possibly weeks, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city had 2.1 million registered voters as of Oct. 24, according to the California secretary of state’s website, and it’s unclear how many ballots are outstanding.

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After the June primary vote, Caruso started with a 5-percentage-point lead before late mail-in votes were counted, and Bass leaped to a 7-point victory.

“We don’t know the outcome yet, but I’m happy to say that we’re starting out strong and we’re a couple thousand votes ahead,” Caruso said Tuesday after spending $100 million in the historically expensive race. 

Most of the race focused heavily on the persistent homelessness crisis, public safety, and scandals that rocked City Hall. Bass said her immediate focus would be declaring a state of emergency for the homelessness crisis, and she promised housing for 15,000 unsheltered people during her first year in office, while Caruso promised housing for 30,000 in the first 300 days.

‘This is the greatest city in the world, and, yes, we have serious problems, but we can master those problems,” Bass said Tuesday, according to the Times.

Bass has spent almost two decades in the state Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives. If she defeats Caruso, she would become the first woman to serve as mayor in L.A.’s 241-year history, and the second Black person ever elected.

Caruso is one of the most powerful figures in commercial real estate in Southern California after developing 10 retail centers, including the iconic 575,000-square-foot shopping center called The Grove. In August, he announced he was stepping down as CEO from his eponymous company.

He argued that his work in real estate, as well as on commissions for the Department of Water and Power and the L.A. Police Department, showed him how to buck the status quo. He said he hoped his winning would encourage other people from the private sector to run for elected offices as well.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.