By Nick Antonicello
After a $45 million investment in a race he was expected to win, Republican-turned, independent-turned Democrat Rick Caruso finds himself with a dwindling lead as his greater challenge lies ahead: How does he win a two-person contest with an embedded Democrat in US Representative Karen Bass, who has national and statewide support, and could even see the White House take a stand in the country’s most Democratic of cities?
Afterall, Vice-President Kamala Harris resides in Los Angeles and given their DC ties, one assumes the Veep will take a position and endorse potentially the first African-American female to lead Los Angeles.
For all politics is local.
And the demographics that saw Republican Richard Riordan win in 1993 with the slogan, “tough enough to turn LA around,” Caruso needs to cobble a curious coalition of voters from the Palisades, the Valley and Westside voters that at some point needs to include working class Hispanics who like Caruso agree that rampant homelessness and rising crime is at the core of LA’s dilemma and challenge.
Caruso, who seems to be emulating Michael Bloomberg’s rise to power in NYC after eight years of Rudy Giuliani back in September of 2011, his message to Hispanics needs to be “clear and concise” and that seems to be lacking when Hollywood royalty like actress Gwyneth Paltrow is front and center which leads to a detached notion of what LA is experiencing these days.
For Paltrow’s presence represents none of that at any level.
Yes, LA is dirty and its infrastructure crumbling. There is a homeless issue that while obvious, not a single candidate with maybe the exception of defeated CD-11 hopeful Mike Newhouse offered anything tangible or credible to deal with a disaster that is acute here in Venice. It will be interesting to see if any actual plans are shared, compared and contrasted by both Caruso and Bass, versus the endless dribble on just how much money Caruso has accumulated as a developer and businessman.
For nobody really cares how rich Rick truly is, much like no one cared about Hillary’s “damn emails.”
For Caruso looked incredibly Trumpian on election night, dapper-dressed and hair perfectly quaffed with his telegenic wife and family that seemed to fall out of central casting. How could not one not compare that image of wealth and privilege to the Trump victory night with his equally beautiful clan in 2016 that saw a new era in American politics?
His prepared text in a leather-bound jacket was poll-driven, but not exactly the stem-winding acceptance of a Robert F Kennedy on that tragic night in June of 1968.
For Caruso doesn’t make any mistakes, but doesn’t seem to be remotely memorable for someone that poses as the prescription LA needs these days.
For Karen Bass is a creature of California politics, a former assembly member and Speaker of the California General Assembly, she wields power that stretches from the White House and was on the “short list” for the vice-presidency as well as a Joe Biden cabinet post. For what she has done in government over these many decades of service isn’t really memorable, but what she is extremely likable who connects with the average Angeleno.
For Bass understands the simple principle notion that politics and campaigning is all about being liked, and not exactly right.
For people vote for people they inherently like.
It’s the reason why Councilmember Kevin de Leon trailed far behind with his angry rhetoric as well as others who were afterthoughts such as Mike Feuer and Joe Buscaino that resonated with no one.
But in politics, money is the “mother’s milk,” and what matters in a race where dollars talk and everyone else takes the bus?
And that is the point.
Can you imagine Rick Caruso shaking hands on a bus to downtown?
Has Caruso even been on a LA transit bus?
Maybe the Blue Bus?
For Bass is always smiling, even if her politics seems detached or rather offensive.
I watched those negative ads produced by the Caruso campaign and kind of felt bad for her.
It’s a real challenge to demonize someone with the personality and demeanor of this political veteran, it just seems to slide off her back.
Karen Bass just doesn’t rattle.
So after having some $40 million dumped on her head, she keeps on going!
Like a marathon runner who understands a campaign is never a hundred-yard dash.
For the contrast on election night was stark.
Bass surrounded by a plethora of regular people, residents who like her are enthusiastic about her story. When compared to Caruso, it seemed you needed a “VIP” pass to even get near this potential mayor in waiting.
And the demographics of Los Angeles are not the same of 1993 when a Republican could win a citywide contest.
And while Caruso is a DINO (Democrat in name only), his right-of-center ways has a rather, distinct hard-ceiling in a city where being a progressive is expected and assumed.
And in fairness to Caruso, the Bass effort is about unity and bringing people together, for whatever that means these days.
And despite everything, no one in LA seems to take voting very seriously.
And the embedded class of insiders who do vote such as developers, land speculators, public employees, union members and those who are vendors of municipal government, the voting pie is not wide nor deep.
20% is considered a groundswell of voter participation, but what do you expect from a place where getting to a Dodger game in the fourth inning is thought of being early?
Better late than never!
So as we get a break from it all for the ensuing summer months, the Bass campaign remains as happy as Hubert Humphrey, while Caruso’s competence and problem-solving image is serious, tanned and toned.
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the race for Mayor of Los Angeles and how it impacts the neighborhood of Venice. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org