C’mon, Los Angeles, Don’t Vote For Billionaire Who Was Republican Until Five Seconds Ago For Mayor

State/Local Politics
C’mon, Los Angeles, Don’t Vote For Billionaire Who Was Republican Until Five Seconds Ago For Mayor

This is Rick Caruso. Why is he a Democrat?

The California primary elections are Tuesday, and so far voter turnout is pathetic. California has universal vote-by-mail, but as of Friday, only 11 percent of ballots had been returned. This could wind up the lowest turnout statewide election since 2014. Worse, only five percent of voters up to age 34 have returned their ballots, while more than half of the ballots cast so far are from voters aged 65 and older. That’s an eerily Brexit-like breakdown.

However, there’s some hope: The number of registered voters is at an all-time high. Also, people are lazy and will wait until the last minute. California will count any ballot postmarked on Election Day if it arrives by June 14.

There are a whopping 20 races to watch, but this post is about the Los Angeles mayoral race. Billionaire mall entrepreneur Rick Caruso is running on a law-and-order platform, and is considered a heavy favorite. Caruso was a Republican for years and switched his party affiliation to Democratic in January, about a month before entering the race. If elected, Caruso could become LA's Eric Adams or Mike Bloomberg. Neither is ideal, and Caruso’s campaign is shamelessly MAGA. He’s even adopted Donald Trump’s “I alone can fix it” rhetoric.

He declared at a recent campaign event:

“You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to make L.A. more livable,” Mr. Caruso said. “We’re going to have cleaner streets and better parks, and we’re going to have lower crime. And you’re going to be able to go for a walk and not worry about it.”

That’s fantabulous! How is he going to solve Los Angeles’s homeless crisis? He’s vowed he’ll treat homelessness like a “natural disaster” and declare a state of emergency on “day one,” assuming authority over the matter from the city council.

The self-described “pro-centrist” Caruso said he’d approach homelessness with a combination of “compassion and firmness.” He claims that unlike his opponents, he won’t let "political correctness” prevent him from making tough decisions.

Here’s some more of his wannabe Trump speak:

“I look at the electorate and think they’re lined up with me,” he said. “They’re scared. They’re frustrated. They’re angry at governments. They feel left behind. Leadership has failed them, and they want change and they want hope and they want the ability for their kids to walk to school and play in a park and not worry about homeless encampments around them and not worry about crime rising.”

Caruso’s proposed solutions for LA's woes have earned him some NIMBY celebrity support. Last month, after meeting with Caruso, Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram story where she said she believed he could “help with the crime in our city, which is such a big issue and super scary," adding that "I think that with him he can offer a better path to a better life for people that are homeless in California and in Los Angeles. I really believe in what he stands for. I was really inspired by him.”

Friday, singer Katy Perry tweeted “Rick Caruso FTW!” We think she lives in Kentucky now, so her endorsement might carry less weight. After saying he could no longer vote for Democrats because they’re so mean and woke, Elon Musk offered his support for minty fresh new “Democrat” Caruso. That’s not a shock.

But it was a bummer to see Snoop Dogg backing Caruso. During a Zoom call last week, Snoop said, “Look at what he stands for. Look at what he’s about. You got my support. We’re a part of whatever you’re a part of, as far as bringing love to the community and keeping people there that were a part of the community.”

Caruso’s tough-on-crime platform promises more cops on the streets with no legal obligation to actually help people. Presumably, the 1,500 new cops will help clear out all the homeless so rich people won’t have to see them. Look, people camping on the streets is not good for anyone, but actual Democrat Karen Bass has actual humane solutions.

Yes, she’d end street encampments, but she’d also house 15,000 people by the end of her first year in office. She’d devote resources to mental health and substance abuse treatment. She’d prioritize affordable housing.

"If you tell me that you want to build housing for the homeless, you go to front of the line," Bass said. "You should not have to stand in line with somebody that is building luxury housing. We don't need any more luxury housing, in my opinion, in the Los Angeles area,”

The NIMBY set isn’t thrilled with that idea. Many Caruso supporters oppose plans to develop more low-income housing in the area. It’s not clear how Los Angeles functions as a city without affordable housing for working people. One Los Angeles resident at a Caruso campaign event described herself as a “reformed liberal,” which is shorthand for “Republican.”

A final poll showed Bass leading the far-better funded Caruso 38 percent to 32 percent, so both are likely headed to a November runoff. What’s concerning is the number of undecided voters, plus the current demographic imbalance. It’s possible Caruso could pull off an upset and if he wins more than 50 percent of the vote, he’d skip the November election and move right into the mayor’s office.

Don’t let that happen. If you live in Los Angeles, turn in your ballot ASAP.

[New York Times / Los Angeles Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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