LA Mayor’s Race Between Karen Bass and Rick Caruso Too Close to Call, Could Take Days to Decide

Both sides agree the hotly contested race is very much up for grabs

L.A. Mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso
Karen Bass and Rick Caruso split Hollywood in L.A. mayoral race. (Getty Images)

After one of the most expensive municipal battles in Los Angeles history, with both sides landing powerful endorsements down to the wire, billionaire businessman Rick Caruso and U.S. Rep Karen Bass were still locked in a dead heat to become the next mayor of Los Angeles early Wednesday.

Caruso held a slight lead of 252,476 votes (51.3%) to Bass’ 240,194 (48.8%) with 43% of the votes counted, according to Associated Press estimates. It’s unclear when the final outcome would be known.

Both campaigns have acknowledged that it might be days, or more, before the race is decided. Voters seemed evenly spit between billionaire businessman Caruso, who spent $100 million his campaign, and the longtime public servant Bass, who spent under $10 million.

Bass addressed her supporters shortly after 10 p.m., telling the crowd “we wanted a campaign that looks like Los Angeles. A campaign that reflected the diversity and the brilliance of our city, a vision of our city moving in a new direction.”

She added: “While we await the results, because it’s going to be a long night, and it might take a few days. But when we win, we will win because we’re going to build a new Los Angeles.”

Earlier in the day, Caruso voted in Boyle Heights, where his Italian grandparents settled when they immigrated to the US.

Addressing his crowd of supporters Tuesday night, Caruso said he was inspired by the people he met on the campaign trial.

“Over the past nine months I have seen the greatness and the humanity of our incredible city,” Caruso said. “I have met the most kind, the most hard working, the most inspiring people that I have ever met…They believe Los Angeles is where dreams come true, just like my grandparents when they came here. And that’s why I decided to run for mayor. Everybody deserves their chance at the American Dream.”

A recent L.A. Times/Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies Poll showed Caruso maintaining an advantage among Republican voters while gaining ground among Latinos and moderates. Caruso, who once served as president of the L.A. Police Commission, was also widely viewed as the candidate who could do the most to curb crime.

The election deeply divided Hollywood. Staunch liberals like Gwyneth Paltrow, UTA partner Jay Sures and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos and his producer wife, Nicole Avant, strongly backed Caruso, who until recently was a registered as ‘non-partisan,’ and before that he was a Republican.

On Sunday, Chris Pratt posted an Instagram story to officially support the billionaire businessman. “I’ve lived in LA for over 20 years. It’s been great to me. In that time I’ve seen what many residents here have seen, the city’s gradual decline into pain and utter disarray. If you live here, you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Bass drew support from Hollywood Democratic stalwarts Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Jeffrey Katzenberg, JJ Abrams and his wife, producer Katie McGrath, and Shonda Rhimes. Bass also was endorsed by former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris came to town on Monday to campaign with Bass.

“Karen Bass has a long history of always being on the side of the people, fighting for the people, for the people whose voices aren’t in the room but must be present,” Harris told a crowd gathered at UCLA on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hollywood’s elder statesman, Norman Lear, went on Twitter to support Bass. “This is one of LA’s most important mayoral races ever…and I have seen a lot of races in my 100 years,” Lear wrote. “Karen Bass is the one true, lifelong, pro-choice Democrat who shares our values. She is the only candidate in the race with a record of getting hard things done.”

Lear added: “We should value lifelong public servants and should not dismiss them for something shiny and new. Experience and knowledge are invaluable. Running a city isn’t the same as building a mall. Los Angeles needs a leader who understands the challenges Angelenos face every day.”