Karen Bass is the first woman mayor in L.A. history.
Karen Bass is the first woman mayor in L.A. history, defeating billionaire businessman Rick Caruso. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles elects Karen Bass as first woman and second Black Mayor in its history


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Veteran lawmaker and former congresswoman Karen Bass was elected the new Mayor of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Bass is the first female to be elected Mayor in the City of Angels’ over 240-year history, and the second Black Mayor to serve in nearly 30 years. 

She defeated her billionaire challenger, real estate developer Rick Caruso, by over 45,000 votes. 

Caruso suffered an electoral and huge financial loss after shelling out more than $100 million of his own fortune for the campaign. The Associated Press called the race after it had been too close to call for nearly a week leading up to Wednesday night. 

“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message,” Bass said in a statement following the victory. “It is time for change and it is time for urgency.”

She will now run the second-largest city in the U.S., and ran a successful campaign touting her wanting to fix homelessness and bridging together racial tensions. Caruso ran on a strategy of being a candidate of law and order in the hopes of appealing to dissatisfied and fed up Angelinos. Caruso called Bass shortly after the race was called to concede. 

“Tonight, 40,000 Angelenos will sleep without a home — and five will not wake up. Crime is increasing and families are being priced out of their neighborhoods. This must change,” said Bass in victory

In a statement released by Caruso following his loss, he encouraged residents to get behind Bass. 

“I’m proud of the work we did to engage long-neglected communities, giving a voice to the unheard, and to the light we shined on the biggest challenges facing our great city,” Caruso said in a concession statement. “There will be more to come from the movement we built, but for now, as a city we need to unite around Mayor-elect Bass and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face. Congratulations, Karen, and God-speed.”

Mayor-elect Bass is inheriting a la la land that is anything but sunny, as the city has suffered from huge financial implications in which rising costs across the board are forcing many citizens out of their neighborhoods as they struggle to pay bills, and keep food on the table. Moreover, the city is still reeling from racial tensions following the L.A. City Council scandal a month back. 

Los Angeles, a city of 4 million people, has also still not fully recovered from the indirect and direct consequences of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and there are areas of the city dedicated to tent camps for the recently and longtime homeless population, debris, economic anxiety and a huge rise in violence. 

In an interview she gave last year, Bass said one of her biggest motivations to run for Mayor was this feeling of divisiveness and anxiety that was in the air among residents that was all too familiar to her and comparable to that of post-L.A. riots in 1992, after Rodney King’s assault at the hands of police. 

While certain issues like crime are high at the moment, they are still rather low compared to the city’s peak during the Rodney King era of Los Angeles in the early 1990s. According to surveys, focus groups and pre-election interviews, residents are angry, and exhausted at the city’s epidemic of homelessness, an issue Bass said she would take head on when she is sworn in. 

Bass said she will declare a state of emergency on homelessness that would allow her the necessary funding and resources to find housing for over 17,000 homeless people in her first year. In regards to the spike in crime, she vows to add more police officers to the force and on the street where it is all taking place, in addition to allowing sworn members to be on patrol instead of handling administrative tasks.

Along with those plans, Bass is also bringing her long track record of coalition-building, and job creation going back from the 1980s. A former physician assistant and emergency room worker during that time, she applied for a federal grant and launched a nonprofit to take on the crack epidemic that had destroyed swaths of Angelinos and millions of others across the country. 

The Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, has become one of the L.A.’s biggest advocacy groups, as they work with the much diverse population of the city. 

With her vast experience in politics, law, and advocacy, Mayor-elect Bass will look to restore law and order, and pride back into the city. 

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