Who Wants to Be the Next Mayor of Los Angeles?
More than a dozen people, including familiar political figures and business titans, are vying for the coveted job.,
More than a dozen people, including familiar political figures and business titans, are vying for the coveted job.
Los Angeles is an enormous city, and its challenges — climate change, homelessness, the pandemic — are increasingly existential. Still, more than a dozen people are vying for the chance to try to solve them as the next mayor.
Recently, we explored how rising frustration with the magnitude of these problems is already shaping the race. Today, we’ll introduce you to some of the candidates.
First, though, the basics of the election: The primary will be on June 7, and if no single candidate gets a majority of votes, the runoff will be on Nov. 8. For the first time, that’s on the same schedule as big state and federal elections, and every registered voter will be sent a ballot — a system that’s expected to amplify turnout among Latino, Asian and younger voters in particular.
In the meantime, Mayor Eric Garcetti, who can’t run again after serving two terms, is awaiting confirmation as U.S. ambassador to India. He may be gone, with an interim in place, by the election. He told us he was “between two worlds.”
So who is the front-runner to replace him? Representative Karen Bass, the former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was on President Biden’s shortlist for vice president, is a formidable force, experts say.
Bass is well-known in Los Angeles, where she was a community organizer in the 1990s. She has garnered support from both progressive activists and members of the city’s political establishment, including Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor; Jeffrey Katzenberg, the entertainment and tech mogul; and Representative Adam Schiff.
She has long been thought of as a potential mayoral contender, but said she did not seriously consider the job until midsummer. She hesitated initially, she said, because an old friend, Mark Ridley-Thomas, then on the City Council, had long had mayoral ambitions, and she had focused for much of her career on uniting California’s Black elected officials.
But then Ridley-Thomas told her over dinner that he would not be running. Weeks later, in a development that stunned many Angelenos, he was indicted on federal bribery charges, accused of making a deal with the University of Southern California to benefit his grown son, who had resigned from the California Assembly amid sexual harassment accusations. “He absolutely said nothing” about his legal issues, she added. “It was just a question of him not having the fire in the belly to want to do this.”
By August, she said, “there was this drumbeat and it just escalated,” helped along by polls showing her far ahead of other prospective candidates. The mayoral post, she added, seemed a natural extension of her decades-long representation of southwest Los Angeles.
When she kicked off her campaign in October, her rally was attended by hundreds of supporters. “Los Angeles, you have called me home,” she told the crowd through tears.
Another high-profile progressive candidate is Kevin de Le?n, a city councilman and former State Senate leader who rose through organized labor. De Le?n, a son of Guatemalan immigrants — including a father who he said is of Chinese descent — told us that while demographic groups are, of course, not monoliths, it is important that the city is 49 percent Latino. Historically, Latino voters have been underrepresented in L.A.’s mayoral races, but changes in next year’s election rules are likely to significantly amplify turnout.
“I think the city of Los Angeles wants a mayor that will lead the entire city, not just some parts of the city,” he said.
Two other candidates are currently elected officials in Los Angeles, including Mike Feuer, the city attorney and former state lawmaker. Feuer has emphasized his experience in government and has vowed to visit all of Los Angeles’s 101 neighborhoods to make his pitch.
“People are hungry for specific, practical solutions and they want to know that you have the ability to actually deliver,” he told us.
The other is Joe Buscaino, currently a city councilman and formerly a Los Angeles police officer who is buttressing his campaign with a ballot measure to completely ban tent encampments. He calls the recent election of New York’s next mayor, Eric Adams, also a former police officer, a personal inspiration and, perhaps, a prescription for Los Angeles.
“Yeah, we’re different skin colors — let’s be honest — with different lived experiences,” Buscaino, who is white, told us recently. “But how I see this is, you need more first responders running cities today, because we lead with urgency. Eric Adams, like myself, knows the importance of moving quickly, as if we’re responding to a 911 call.”
A variety of local businesspeople have jumped into the fray, as well. They include Jessica Lall, who heads a downtown business group and has served as an adviser for other public officials; Ramit Varma, an entrepreneur who founded an online tutoring firm; and Mel Wilson, a real estate agent.
Two more business figures loom over the race, though neither is officially running: Rick Caruso, the billionaire developer of the Grove outdoor mall, has hired a team of top political consultants and hasn’t ruled out a campaign. And Austin Beutner, a wealthy investor and former Los Angeles school superintendent, has considered a run.
Karen Bass’s long journey to power, from outsider to insider.
If you read one story, make it this
It’s been a home for decades, but legal only a few months.
The rest of the news
Fight against violence: Calls for unity between Asian and Black activists have ebbed over disagreements on one main issue: policing.
Gas vs. electric: How politics are determining what stove you use.
Covid-19: Why Los Angeles officials delayed implementation of a vaccine requirement for students.
Plus, this Northern California school district is sending every student home for the holidays with an antigen test, CNN reports.
Drakeo the Ruler: The West Coast rapper was killed at a Los Angeles festival Saturday night.
Britney Spears: How the pop star’s manager benefited from her conservatorship.
Crabbing restrictions lifted: Local fishermen are now free to catch crabs off the Central Coast, just in time for the holidays, KSBW reports.
San Francisco: Mayor London Breed has taken a highly unusual stance for a liberal mayor in one of America’s most liberal cities.
Theranos trial: The magazine story that made Elizabeth Holmes famous could now help send her to prison, The Washington Post writes.
What we’re eating
Extra spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s travel tip comes from Harold Bass, a reader who lives in Porter Ranch:
“The Great Wall of Los Angeles is a labor of love inspired and directed by Chicana artist Judith Baca. It is a half-mile-long mural depicting the history of California along the west wall of the Tujunga Flood Control Channel in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles. The mural, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is divided into 81 sections. It extends along Coldwater Canyon Avenue between Burbank Boulevard and Oxnard Street.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What we’re recommending
Holiday gift ideas for the vegetarian in your life.
And before you go, some good news
Last August, a fire in the Mojave Desert sliced through one of the world’s largest Joshua tree forests and killed more than a million of the iconic trees.
What remains is a jarring sight: Trees lay prone, or have been reduced to piles of ash. Some are still standing but are singed black.
This year, volunteers began planting Joshua tree seedlings in the Cima Dome Joshua tree forest to help replace what’s been lost, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Though their efforts will undo only a fraction of the damage, nurturing new life at least feels hopeful, volunteers say.
“This really pulled on my heartstrings,” a New Mexico firefighter, Marc Sandoval, told the newspaper. “As a firefighter, you don’t often get to be involved in the rehab after a fire. To see all the scorched trees, it’s really a lot to take in.”
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Gadget banned in all U.S. national parks (5 letters).
Soumya Karlamangla, Jack Kramer and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.