Democrat Karen Bass is making history as the first female mayor of Los Angeles, CNN projects
Rep. Karen Bass has made history as the first female mayor of Los Angeles, CNN projects, surpassing her rival Rick Caruso’s more than $104 million in spending to win the race.
The six-term congresswoman, who represents South and West Los Angeles, was able to assemble a strong coalition of black voters in South Los Angeles and white progressives on the city’s west side to prevail against the mall magnate.
“This is my home, and with all my heart, I am ready to serve, and my promise to you is that we will hit the ground running on the first day,” Bass said in a statement Wednesday night, noting that she had “received a gracious invitation” from Carusa and hoped to “continue his civic participation in the city we both love”.
In her campaign, Bass emphasized the depth of her political experience and her reputation as a collaborative listener and legislator. She also highlighted her early work as an emergency room physician assistant and her experience bringing together black and Latino community organizers in South LA in the early 1990s to address the root causes of crime and the crack epidemic—work she did through a nonprofit she established Community Coalition.
Joe Biden checked on Bass, then chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, to be his vice president in 2020 because she helped lead the negotiations on legislation to create greater police accountability following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
She has earned the respect of her Democratic colleagues and her constituents for her decades of experience shaping public policy in areas such as child welfare, foster care and prison reform.
Bass argued that her experience will give her a unique perspective and understanding of homelessness in Los Angeles. She said her experience in the emergency room gave her a depth of understanding of the problem that her primary rivals, including Caruso, did not have.
“I have experience in the field of medicine. I worked with these patients,” she told CNN in an interview earlier this year. “I spent several years in the emergency room in (LA) County. My patients were homeless. My patients were mentally ill. They had substance abuse. I know those systems.”
She said she would declare a state of emergency on homelessness that would set a new tone for dealing with the issue across the city: “It should be dealt with like a natural disaster,” she told CNN. “I really hope that we start to build a new spirit in this city, where people realize that this problem is everybody’s problem.”
She cast Caruso as a political opportunist who registered as a Democrat only to improve his chances of winning office. Noting his past donations to conservative Republicans, she and her allies sought to raise questions about his support for abortion rights — criticisms Caruso said were unfair, baseless and an attack on his Catholic faith.
Caruso has toyed with the idea of running for mayor for years after serving in other civic roles, including serving as city police commissioner and former head of the USC Board of Trustees. One of his biggest obstacles has been his history as a former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat running for the top job in a predominantly Democratic city.
But he caught the frustration that many city voters feel about homelessness, crime and corruption at City Hall — spending tens of millions of dollars of their own money on ads that portrayed him as a fixer with executive credentials to fix those problems and improve city efficiency and responsiveness.
While Bas accused Caruso of I’m trying to buy As the mayor’s office vied to replace term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti, Caruso suggested that she and other “career politicians” were ineffective and that an outsider would be needed to clean up the city’s streets and speed up efforts to shelter the homeless.
During the campaign, Bass also highlighted her role as a dealmaker when she led the California state assembly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis — making budget decisions that earned her a John F. Kennedy Award. Profile in Courage Award In 2010, she also made history in that role – becoming the first black woman to serve as speaker of a state legislature in 2008.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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