Many voters in heavily Democratic Los Angeles are seething over rising crime and homelessness and that could prompt the city to take a turn to the political right for the first time in decades.
One of the leading candidates for mayor is Rick Caruso, a pro-business billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and is promising to expand spending on police, not defund them.
At another time, the high-end mall and resort developer would seem an unlikely choice to potentially lead the nation’s second-most populous city, where democratic socialist Bernie Sanders was the runaway winner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. A progressive City Hall has embraced so-called sanctuary city protections for people who entered the U.S. illegally and “Green New Deal” climate policies.
But these are fraught times in LA, with more than 40,000 people living in trash-strewn homeless encampments and rusty RVs, distress over brazen smash-and-grab robberies and home invasions while inflation and taxes are gouging wallets — gas in a region built on car travel has cracked $6 a gallon. Rents and home prices have soared.
Caruso is spending millions of his estimated $4.3 billion fortune to finance a seemingly nonstop display of TV and online ads to tap into voter angst. At issue is whether enough people will embrace his plans to add 1,500 police officers and promises to get unhoused people off the streets, while not recoiling from his vast wealth.