Developer Rick Caruso conceded defeat in the Los Angeles mayor’s race to Rep. Karen Bass, after updated vote count released Wednesday increased her lead to more than 46,500 votes.
“The results are in, and it is the honor of my life to be elected as your mayor,” Bass wrote in an email to supporters after her lead grew to 53%-47%. “Angelenos came together, across every neighborhood and all walks of life, to be heard — and I hear you.
“Now, it’s time to get to work and move our city in a new direction. It’s time to house people immediately, increase safety and opportunity in every neighborhood, and create a new standard of ethics and accountability at City Hall.”
Caruso, in a statement, said the voters had spoken, but he was proud of his campaign.
“There will be more to come from the movement we built, but for now, as a city we need to unite around Mayor-elect Bass and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face,” Caruso said. “Congratulations, Karen, and Godspeed.”
Caruso made reference to what was at times a contentious race between the two candidates.
“And although at times, we’ve been disheartened by the nature of politics, the baseless, untrue attacks in search of victory, not values — more than anything, my family and I are inspired by the good, decent, hard-working people of Los Angeles,” Caruso said.
Caruso held the lead in the vote count after Election Day, but as updates slowly trickled in over the next week, Bass surpassed him and then gradually extended her lead.
Bass was working in her Los Angeles congressional office when she learned that The Associated Press had called the race Wednesday afternoon. In a statement, Bass said she received a “gracious call” from Caruso. Bass said she hopes Caruso “continues his civic participation in the city that we both love.”
“I have great respect for his commitment to serving the people of Los Angeles,” Bass said of her opponent, who spent more than $100 million on his campaign, much of it from his own fortune .
The Bass campaign provided a photo of Bass sitting at a desk in her office, watching television coverage of her victory, with a framed newspaper clipping of when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 leaning against the side of the desk.
“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: it is time for change and it is time for urgency,” said Bass, who will be the first woman and the second Black person to be Los Angeles’ mayor. Tom Bradley was Los Angeles’ first Black mayor, serving from 1973-93.
Bass is the first sitting House member to be elected mayor of Los Angeles since 1953, when Rep. Norris Poulson was elected. Then-Reps. James Roosevelt, Alphonzo Bell and Xavier Becerra lost campaigns for mayor in 1965, 1969 and 2001.
Outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti called Bass’ victory a “historic moment and a win for all Angelenos.” Garcetti said Bass had received “unconditional support” throughout the transition period and has already begun preparing with his team on the transfer of power.
“I know that she will lead this city with grace and compassion, and that she’ll lean on her skills as a natural consensus-builder, deep ties to our neighborhoods and community leaders, and her unwavering commitment to equity and justice that has defined her as one of America’s great visionaries and leaders,” Garcetti said.
Councilman Mike Bonin tweeted that he was “so proud to be an Angeleno tonight.”
“The voters have chosen wisely, and elected Karen Bass as our next mayor,” Bonin tweeted. “As a healer and a coalition builder, Karen appealed to our hearts and to our better angels. I’m inspired and optimistic that our best days are just ahead.”
The race tightened in the weeks before Election Day, with Caruso closing the gap in several polls after trailing by as many as double-digits among likely voters as late as October, according to a Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. Heading into Election Day, several experts described Bass as the favorite, though they were uncertain how much Caruso’s spending would sway the race.
But Bass, who positioned herself as the authentic, pro-abortion rights Democrat in the race, won over an electorate that experts said favored her. The mayor of Los Angeles has no power over abortion. Caruso was a Republican until 2019 and donated to anti-abortion politicians, allowing Bass to contrast herself as a “lifelong, pro-choice Democrat” in a city that leans heavily Democratic.
“This victory sends a clear message about the kind of Los Angeles we want and see for ourselves,” said Mark Gonzalez, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. “We’ve always said this race is about the soul of Los Angeles and voters clearly spoke up to reject an attempt to buy this race.”
Bass was also endorsed by nearly every major figure in the Democratic Party, including Obama, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“People do vote the party line now more than ever, in this very hyper-polarized state we’re in,” Mindy Romero, director of USC’s Center for Inclusive Democracy, told City News Service.
Romero added that Bass’ mainstream endorsements, name recognition and lengthy history in Los Angeles made a difference.
Fernando Guerra, professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, called Bass the “establishment” candidate. Voters did not take a chance on Caruso, who has never held elected office.
“She represents what L.A. aspires to be,” Guerra said to CNS. “She was able to keep the L.A. coalition together. She was able to keep the optimism that we can continue to be who we think we are and we want to be.”
Bass inherits leadership of a city grappling with a scandal that has embroiled City Hall for the past month, after three council members and a top county labor official took part in a recorded conversation in October 2021 that included racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting.
Combined with concerns over homelessness, crime, quality of life and cost of living, “people are just the most pessimistic I’ve seen Angelenos in basically a decade and a half — since the Great Recession,” according to Guerra.
Bass, 69, grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement with three brothers in the Venice and Fairfax neighborhoods. She was drawn to community activism after watching the movement on television, volunteering for Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign when she was 14.
Her organizing career began in 1990, when she founded Community Coalition, a South Los Angeles social justice group in response to the crack cocaine crisis.
In 2004, Bass was the only Black woman in the Legislature when she was elected to the Assembly. Four years later, she became the first Black woman to lead the chamber. Bass was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010.
David Huerta, president of SEIU United Service Workers West, said Bass had a track record of fighting for Los Angeles’ working class.
“Angelenos had a choice between a pro-worker legislator and community activist and a real estate developer with a proven track record of putting his personal profit ahead of people, and they made it clear who they want as their next mayor,” Huerta said.
Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called Bass “the champion that people in Los Angeles deserve.”
“Her victory is further proof that voters want to see candidates fight back for the freedom to decide,” Bass said.
Bass was considered by Biden to serve as his running mate when he was running for president in 2020, a position that eventually went to Harris.
“From her activist days on the ground leading the Community Coalition from a storefront in South LA, to making waves in Sacramento and Washington D.C.,” said Councilman Curren Price, the council’s president pro tempore.
“Whether fighting to protect the rights of women, children and families, immigrants, students, businesses, workers or veterans, she has raised her powerful voice on behalf of our most vulnerable populations and has earned this historical title.”