The Los Angeles mayoral race between Republican businessman Rick Caruso and Democrat Congresswoman Karen Bass is too close to call as the candidates remain neck and neck with one another as election results trickle in.
Early returns showed Caruso with a slim edge over Bass as both candidates hovered around 50% of the vote, with a small amount of mail-in votes tallied.
Bass, a progressive Democratic congresswoman, could become the first Black woman to hold the job. The billionaire Caruso, a Republican-turned-Democrat, would represent a turn to the political right for the liberal city of nearly 4 million.
At an election night rally with supporters, Bass warned that tabulating the votes could take several days and expressed confidence that “we will win.”
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“We are in a fight for the soul of our city,” Bass said to thunderous cheers. “We will win because we are going to build a new Los Angeles.”
As results from the race came in, Caruso appeared before an anxious crowd of supporters and thanked his family and spoke about being inspired by the city’s diverse communities.
“We’re starting out strong,” he said.
Caruso insisted that “you develop a larger family along the way.”
“We’ve all come together for a cause. And that’s a very uplifting thing,” he added.
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The election comes amid several concerning issues in the city, including an unabated 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.
Bass is 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. He is promising to expand the police department to deal with rising crime rates and quickly get ubiquitous homeless encampments off the streets.
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The winner will replace Democrat Eric Garcetti, who will conclude two uneven 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.