Rick J. Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer and longtime civic figure, entered the Los Angeles mayoral race on Friday, shaking a crowded field for the top job in the nation’s second-largest city. after more than a decade of flirting with a race.
Mr Caruso, 63, whose candidacy had been the subject of intense speculation over the past year, filed a statement that he would report to the city clerk hours before the deadline and should make an official announcement next week.
“It’s a very meaningful day for me and my family,” he told a small group of reporters standing in the covered walkway of a city building in an industrial section of downtown. “I love LA, I love the diversity of LA. I can’t wait to be a part of it.
His brief statement was first drowned out by a protester who shouted grossly crass criticism, and that Angelenos ‘doesn’t want a billionaire mayor’.
Mr. Caruso is known for his iconic outdoor malls designed with Disney nostalgia and attention to detail, as well as his role in leading a long list of civic institutions.
His fortune has been seen as a powerful asset in a market where mounting a credible campaign can be extremely expensive, and his resume, which includes serving as chief of the city’s police commission and chairman of the board of the University of Southern California, evokes an older generation of Los Angeles power brokers.
These figures include Eli Broad, the businessman and philanthropist who died last year after making his mark on the cultural and civic life of Los Angeles, and Richard Riordan, an investment banker who was elected mayor in the aftermath of the riots in 1992. Mr. Caruso’s experience and wealth give him the potential to serve as a more conservative alternative in a left-leaning field.
But Mr. Caruso’s bid for officially nonpartisan mayor will face a political dynamic that has undergone substantial change over the past generation. Many people say the appetite for this style of leadership has waned in Los Angeles, a vast, multiracial metropolis where symptoms of gaping economic inequality — from the pandemic’s heavy toll on the poorest black and Latino residents to the the city’s monumental housing crisis – have become all-consuming challenges.
And political observers say two factors are likely to dramatically boost voter turnout among underrepresented groups like renters, young adults, Latinos and Asians: the timing of the election, which coincides with national elections midterms, and a revamped system that will send ballots to all assets. , registered voter.
“The electorate of 1993 is completely different from the electorate of 2022,” said Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re talking about two different Los Angeles.”
Homelessness — and the constellation of thorny issues it touches, including crime, public health, public transit, cost of living, and the environment — is likely to be a mainstream concern.
The contest is already filled with high-profile contenders, all Democrats, seeking to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become US ambassador to India and can no longer run after serving the maximum two terms.
Rep. Karen Bass, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who was on President Biden’s shortlist for vice president, has perhaps the broadest base of support in the city, where she started as a community organizer in the 1990s. She has the support of both progressive activists and members of the political establishment.
Kevin de León, city councilman and former head of the state Senate, is another well-known progressive in the race; he touted his background as the son of Guatemalan immigrants in a 49% Latino city.
Joe Buscaino, a city councilor and former police officer, tried to position himself as a moderate, in line with the new mayor of New York, Eric Adams.
Mr. Buscaino and Mr. Caruso could find themselves fighting for many of the same voters, in a race that will likely require a runoff after a June 7 primary. But at least one of the announced candidates, local business leader Jessica Lall, will not be at the polls; as speculation mounted that Mr Caruso was set to enter the race, she announced on Tuesday that she was dropping out.
General elections will be held on November 8.
Former Republican in a now majority Democratic city, Mr. Caruso announcement at the end of January that he would register as a Democrat and would no longer be registered on the lists without party preference.
“I won’t be a typical Democrat, that’s for sure,” he wrote in the statement. “I will be a pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat.”
He enlisted the help of some of the state’s top Democratic political strategists, including the consultants who led Gov. Gavin Newsom’s successful campaign to keep his job last year in a contentious recall election.
The grandson of Italian immigrants who grew up in Beverly Hills, Mr. Caruso has become known for his properties – including the Grove in Los Angeles and the Americana at Brand in neighboring Glendale – which present a southern vision of the California that is clean, polished and tightly controlled. Trams roll happily past fountains, sidewalk cafes and luxury stores where security guards stand sentry.
In TV interviews late last year, Mr Caruso said a flash mob theft at The Grove was the fault of efforts to ‘defund the cops’, prompting condemnation from activists who said that developers were incentivized to protect their property rather than address the root causes. of the crime.
Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University in Los Angeles, said the mayoral election may hinge less on political ideas and more on perceived leadership.
“Voters aren’t necessarily looking for someone who has the best solution,” he said. “They want someone who can take any solution and make it work.”