Rep. Karen Bass has become Los Angeles’ first female mayor after defeating opponent Rick Caruso who spent more than $104 million to win the election.
In order to defeat the shopping mall magnate, the six-term congresswoman, who covers south and west Los Angeles was able to assemble a powerful coalition of Black voters in South Los Angeles and White progressives on the city’s west side.
Bass said in a statement Wednesday night that she had “got a courteous call” from Caruso and hoped that he “continues his civic activity in the city that we both love.” She added that she was “ready to serve” and that she will “strike the ground running on Day One.”
Bass focused on the breadth of her policy expertise and her standing as a legislator and listener who works well with others during her campaign. She also discussed her early work as an emergency room physician assistant and her involvement in bringing together Black and Latino community organizers in South Los Angeles in the early 1990s to address the causes of crime and the crack epidemic. She did this work through the nonprofit organization she founded, Community Coalition.
When George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Joe Biden screened Bass, the Congressional Black Caucus chair at the time to be his running mate in 2020. Bass helped lead the discussions on legislation to increase police accountability.
To the thousands of people who worked on my campaign, thank you.
To everyone who will join our mission to move L.A. in a new direction, thank you.
We will get big things done together.
Full statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/gvBXIlILVZ
— Karen Bass (@KarenBassLA) November 17, 2022
Because of her decades of expertise influencing public policy in fields like child welfare, foster care and jail reform, she had earned the respect of her Democratic colleagues and her constituents.
Bass said that because of her background, she would have a special grasp of the issues related to homelessness in Los Angeles. She said that her work in the emergency room had given her a thorough understanding of the issue that neither she nor her main competitors, including Caruso, possessed.
“I have experience working in the medical industry. In an interview with CNN earlier this year, she said, “I’ve worked with these people. “I worked in the (LA) county emergency room for a number of years. They were homeless, my patients. My patients had mental illnesses. They used drugs excessively. These systems are the ones I am familiar with.
Homelessness would be treated as a natural disaster, she said to CNN and she would proclaim a state of emergency to change the way the problem is handled in the city. I sincerely hope that this city starts to develop a new attitude where people see that this issue affects everyone.
She painted Caruso as an opportunistic politician who only registered as a Democrat to increase his chances of getting the position. She and her allies attempted to cast doubt on his support for abortion rights by bringing up his prior donations to conservative Republicans. Caruso responded that this was unjust, unsubstantiated, and an attack on his Catholic faith.
After serving in several civic positions, such as being the previous head of the USC Board of Trustees and the city police commissioner, Caruso had debated running for mayor for years. His past as a Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat running for office in a heavily Democratic city was one of his major obstacles.
THANK YOU, LOS ANGELES! pic.twitter.com/I0lrPSruzJ
— Karen Bass (@KarenBassLA) November 17, 2022
He spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on advertisements that portrayed him as a fixer with the executive credentials to address those problems and increase the city’s efficiency and responsiveness but he also capitalized on the anger that many city voters are feeling about homelessness, crime and corruption at City Hall.
As they competed to succeed term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti, Bass accused Caruso of attempting to buy the office. However, Caruso countered that she and other “career politicians” had been ineffective and that it would take an outsider to quicken efforts to house the homeless and clean up the city’s streets.
When she oversaw the California State Assembly following the 2008 financial crisis and made budget decisions that earned her a 2010 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, Bass also emphasized during the campaign her position as a dealmaker. In that capacity, she also made history by being the first Black woman to lead a state legislature as a speaker in 2008.
By defeating wealthy real estate mogul Rick Caruso in the election for mayor of Los Angeles, congressman Karen Bass became the nation’s second-largest city’s first female mayor.
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