LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. Rep. Karen Bass established a fragile lead Friday over developer Rick Caruso in their back-and-forth contest to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, with many ballots uncounted and the outcome not expected until at least next week.
Returns released by the Los Angeles County Clerk's Office showed Bass with a 4,384-vote advantage over the billionaire Caruso — or 50.4% to 49.6%. Earlier, Caruso held a slim lead over the congresswoman.
Nearly 40% of the ballots remained uncounted.
Bass, a progressive Democratic congresswoman, could become the first Black woman to hold the job. Caruso, a Republican-turned-Democrat known for building high-end malls, would represent a turn to the political right for the liberal city of nearly 4 million and is promising to expand the police department.
The election has historical dimensions, coming as the City Council contends with a racism scandal that led to the exit of its former president and calls for the resignation of two more members, an unchecked homeless crisis, corruption probes and widespread concern with crime that has ranged from daytime robberies on city sidewalks to smash-and-grab thefts at luxury stores.
The favorite is Bass, a former state Assembly leader who has the advantage of being a lifelong Democrat in a city where Republicans are almost invisible. She’s backed by President Joe Biden and the Democratic establishment and has been promising to use her skills as a coalition builder to heal a wounded city.
Caruso is campaigning on an abrupt change in direction, arguing that Bass and other longtime politicians are part of the problem that has led LA into multiple crises. Along with hiring more police, he's promising to quickly get ubiquitous homeless encampments off the streets.
The winner will replace beleaguered Democrat Eric Garcetti, who will conclude two bumpy terms with his nomination to become U.S. ambassador to India stalled in the Senate, apparently over sexual misconduct allegations against a former top Garcetti adviser.
Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press