Billionaire developer Rick Caruso enters LA mayor’s contest

Caruso, who is best known for building high-end shopping malls, joins several locally prominent Democrats among a growing group of candidates. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass is hoping to become the first female and the second Black mayor, after Tom Bradley, who held the post from 1973 to 1993. Other candidates include city Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Kevin de Leon and City Attorney Mike Feuer.

A first-time mayoral candidate and one-time Republican, Caruso is positioning himself as an outsider taking on the political status quo. He’s already facing attacks from Democratic rivals.

In a statement, Feuer said Caruso represented “Trumpian” values, a reference to former President Donald Trump. Buscaino issued a statement emphasizing that Caruso raised money for Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, whose progressive reforms some blame for the rise in crime.

The race is playing out at a time when L.A. is facing a long-running homeless crisis that has seen squalid encampments spread into virtually every neighborhood. Crime has been rising, highlighted by a string of smash-and-grab robberies. Residents and businesses have been contending with two years of on-and-off coronavirus restrictions that in the depths of the pandemic cost the region hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The primary election is June 7.

The race is nonpartisan but the leading contenders all are Democrats, unsurprising in a city where the party’s voters outnumber registered Republicans by more than 4-to-1.

Caruso’s political registration has shifted several times over the years. He recently announced he was enrolling as a Democrat, a move that was widely seen as a precursor in his run for mayor.

According to Los Angeles County records, Caruso was a longtime Republican, then changed his registration to independent in December 2011. He flipped back to Republican in March 2016, but changed again to independent in November 2019.

Garcetti, a two-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down tenure, was nominated in July by President Joe Biden to be the next ambassador to India.