Los Angeles and San Francisco residents are tired of crime and homelessness rising day by day, and their next option would be voting for a Republican. An ex-Republican billionaire could be the next mayor of Los Angeles, while San Francisco might vote out their far-left district attorney.
NBC NEWS: Los Angeles and San Francisco voters may rebuke left in primaries
Alex Seitz-Wald; June 7, 2022
WASHINGTON — Two of America’s most famously progressive cities may take right turns Tuesday, when California and six other states hold primary elections.
This year’s sixth round of primary elections will feature no major Senate or gubernatorial battles. But primaries will determine who may end up representing millions of Americans in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.
In Los Angeles, long-simmering frustrations with issues like homelessness and crime have made an ex-Republican billionaire the unlikely front-runner to be the next mayor of the heavily Democratic megacity.
Rick Caruso, a major real estate developer who only recently joined the Democratic Party and received a rare endorsement from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has spent more than $34 million on his campaign — nearly 10 times more than his main opponent, six-term Democratic Rep. Karen Bass.
While the money helps, Caruso has tapped into growing resentment about the state of the city and the perception that its Democratic leaders have been unable to do much about it.
Homelessness continues to rise while housing has become even less affordable. Crime is up, traffic is worse, and high gas prices come with extra sting in a city infamous for its long commutes.
Los Angeles County, which has for decades been a magnet for Americans dreaming of a fresh start, saw more people leave during the first year of the pandemic than any other in the U.S., according to census data released in March.
With TV ads promising to “clean up LA” and to be “a doer…not just a talker,” Caruso has portrayed himself as a non-ideological outsider with the ability and willingness to do what the city needs, even if it angers activists or unions. His plan to hire 1,500 new police officers, for instance, has earned rebukes from other candidates focused more on the LAPD’s civil rights issues.
Bass and her allies, meanwhile, have compared Caruso to another party switching billionaire real estate developer — former President Donald Trump — and highlighted Caruso’s past donations to GOP candidates like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and to anti-abortion causes.
“He’s a fraud,” says the narrator of an ad from a pro-Bass super PAC, calling Caruso “a lifelong Republican.”
LA’s recent mayoral elections have been relatively sleepy affairs where only around 1 in 5 registered voters bothered to turn out. But analysts say that could be different this year, as term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti leaves office with low approval ratings and polls showing a growing number of voters concerned about the direction of the city.
The contest, however, will likely continue into the fall since none of the candidates are expected to clear the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff, which is scheduled to coincide with the general election in November.
It’s a similar story in San Francisco, another famously progressive city that has been suffering from familiar urban plights — it saw an even bigger recent exodus than LA on a per-capita basis. But crime has become the central flashpoint here, as polls suggest voters are poised to fire their reformist district attorney in a recall election Tuesday.
Photo: Rick Caruso Ex-Republican Billionaire Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images