Shopping center developer Rick Caruso bet some $100 million he could become the next mayor of Los Angeles.
But more than a week after the Nov. 8 election, it was evident his bet, paid for almost entirely with his own money, didn’t pay off.
On Wednesday afternoon, the billionaire businessman conceded that his opponent, a six-term congresswoman, had won. “The voters have spoken,” he said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work we did to engage long-neglected communities, giving a voice to the unheard, and to the light we shined on the biggest challenges facing our city.”
Those challenges have been people without homes and rising crime. Another challenge has been counting votes, still an ongoing process. The morning after the polls closed, initial results showed a tight race between the two candidates. With just under 500,000 votes counted, Caruso was slightly ahead with 51.25 percent of the vote versus 48.75 percent for Bass.
But as thousands of mail-in ballots were counted, the wind quickly shifted. As of Thursday morning, Bass was ahead by 46,578 votes, or 53.1 percent of the vote, to Caruso’s 46.9 percent, with 75 percent of the ballots counted.
This turned into a historical race because Bass will become Los Angeles’ first female mayor and only the second Black person to hold the office, following Tom Bradley, who was mayor from 1973 to 1993. She takes office on Dec. 12.
Caruso called Bass on Wednesday night and congratulated her. The following morning, she held a press conference in front of the Wilshire Ebell Theatre complex and thanked her thousands of supporters.
“It is with a special feeling in my heart, and with the thoughts of my mother and my daughters and of all the women in this city, that I stand before you in this place as the next mayor of Los Angeles,” she said.
With only a little more than three weeks before she takes office, she already is gearing up. “Many Angelenos do not feel safe in their neighborhoods, and families have been priced out of their communities. This must change. And to the people of Los Angeles, my message is that we’re going to solve homelessness. We are going to prevent and respond urgently to crime,” she said.
Bass said the election was a hard-fought victory. Caruso, who grew up in a wealthy family living in Beverly Hills, spent some 10 times more than Bass, the daughter of a postal worker, in his campaign.
The billionaire developer and businessman blanketed the air waves with repeated TV ads promoting his ideas of providing more beds for unhoused citizens and adding 1,500 officers to the Los Angeles Police Department.
He also allotted between $12 million to $14 million to hire some 400 to 500 ballot chasers who fanned out into Latine and Asian neighborhoods knocking on doors or making phone calls for a get-out-the-vote campaign to reach residents that often don’t vote.
Bass, whose campaign raised only $9.7 million, was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and relied on some heavy political guns to sway voters. Former President Barack Obama appeared in a TV ad where he and Bass talked via Facetime about how he looked forward to seeing her become the next Los Angeles mayor.
Bass also had the support of President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Celebrity heavyweights who threw their weight behind the congresswoman included Steven Spielberg, John Legend, Tracee Ellis Ross and Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
In Caruso’s celebrity corner were Snoop Dogg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry.
On the labor front, major unions backing the businessman were the United Firefighters of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Union, which represents 9,500 officers. Caruso was the president of the L.A. Police Commission for five years following his appointment in 2001 by Mayor James Hahn.
Homelessness was a major talking point on the campaign trail. Caruso said he would declare a state of emergency to deal with the problem and build enough beds to house 30,000 unhoused citizens.
Bass is also deeply concerned about homelessness and promised to build a coalition to house 15,000 people without homes by the end of her first year in office.