Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Bass and Caruso’s tight L.A. mayoral race continues

Los Angeles mayoral candidates Rick Caruso and Karen Bass.
(Los Angeles Times)

By Laura Blasey and Elvia Limón

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Nov. 12.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass moves ahead of businessman Rick Caruso. Bass overtook Caruso in the seesaw battle to be mayor of Los Angeles, with Friday’s tally showing the veteran lawmaker 4,384 votes ahead of the real estate developer in a contest that will not be settled until next week at the earliest. The new totals from county election officials put Bass ahead, with a margin of 50.38% to 49.62%, for the first time since Caruso took a slim advantage in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

More election coverage

  • The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is investigating Sheriff Alex Villanueva after he solicited campaign donations from deputies.
  • The slate of California ballot measures this fall attracted more than $700 million in contributions all told.
  • To get some attention for his unconventional Los Angeles city controller campaign, Kenneth Mejia dressed up as Pikachu. Just over a year later, Mejia — a certified public accountant with little name recognition — has claimed victory over City Councilmember Paul Koretz.
  • San Bernardino voters overwhelmingly came out in support of Helen Tran, who is set to become the city’s first Asian American mayor.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s two recent picks for the California Supreme Court made history this week, winning a key confirmation and voter approval to become the high court’s first openly lesbian justice and first Latina chief.
  • Long Beach voters are on track to usher in two historic firsts for the region: sending the first LGBTQ immigrant to Congress and electing the city’s first Black mayor.

The election is over, but the claims of fraud aren’t. In rural Northern California — where Trump beat President Biden by 33 percentage points — local election officials and poll workers have felt threatened and under siege as a group of election deniers push conspiracy theories with no end in sight. The split is not so much red versus blue but traditional conservative versus far right.


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Helping victims of discrimination in L.A. The city of Los Angeles’ Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department has launched a unit to investigate complaints about discrimination by employers, landlords and businesses. Officials said the unit will help Angelenos avoid the significant backlogs they might encounter at higher levels of government.

Will California cut rooftop solar incentives? A Public Utilities Commission proposal would reduce payments to homes and businesses that go solar for clean electricity they supply to the power grid. The cuts aren’t as deep as a previous plan that faced sharp criticism, but the plan could still have dramatic ripple effects.

$2-billion winning ticket surfaces in Altadena. One lucky winner bought the nation’s only matching Powerball ticket worth more than $2 billion at an Altadena gas station, becoming California’s first billionaire-by-lottery on Tuesday. It was also a win for Joseph Chahayed, the Syrian immigrant who owns the station and was awarded his own prize for selling the ticket under California’s lottery rules.

A wild Southern California police pursuit for the ages. The chase across Los Angeles and Orange counties on Wednesday evening was among the most dramatic in recent years. For about an hour, a suspect led police on a dangerous pursuit, twice taking other people’s vehicles, hitting multiple cars and ramming into at least two police cruisers. And it was all broadcast live on local TV.

The peasants of Buena Park vote to unionize. They may play knights and royalty, but some performers at the Medieval Times dinner theater castle say they’re subjected to long hours and sometimes dangerous duties for low wages. They voted 27 to 18 on Thursday to unionize, becoming the second castle in the chain to do so and joining a wave of unionization efforts across the country.


Berkeley may say goodbye to right turns on red lights. The City Council voted last week to approve an initial proposal that would ban the practice, putting up signs at every intersection with a light in the small city informing drivers of the rule. The council still needs to vote to approve funding in its next annual budget.

A new nature preserve in Ventura County. Trust for Public Land announced that it had bought the 1,250 acres of land just northwest of the Ventura County line for about $25 million. The plan is to transfer the land to the adjacent Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

So long, Hyperloop. Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop transportation technology promised to hurl passengers through tunnels in levitating, autonomous electric pods at more than 600 mph, cutting a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco to 35 minutes. But after sitting idle for several years, the tube on Jack Northrop Avenue in Hawthorne — which drew complaints about road and pedestrian access, as well as questions of its purpose — has been removed, at the city’s request.

Pick up your employees’ laundry to get them back in the office. In L’Oréal’s plush new West Coast headquarters in El Segundo, workers are pampered by a concierge who will fill their cars with gas, pick up their laundry, retrieve their dogs from day care or do any other task employees want. The sweet setup reflects a carrot-and-stick approach being used to get people back to the office as pandemic concerns wane among employers.

Singer Aaron Carter was found dead. Carter, who rose to fame with catchy pop songs in the late 1990s and later struggled with drug addiction, was found dead at his home in Lancaster on Nov. 5. Authorities said they were investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The fungi future is just south of downtown L.A. As consumers get curious about mushrooms, they’re moving beyond the white button mushrooms of grocery store shelves. In a 34,000-square-foot building, on the same street as a producer of ready-mix concrete and a Dr Pepper distributor, Smallhold is helping to change the market. The company’s L.A. urban farm grows mushrooms of fantastical display and scale — several thousand pounds of mushrooms a week, or tens of thousands of pounds in the near future, if all goes as planned.

Artistic swimming is no joke. The sport — which used to be known as synchronized swimming until officials changed the name several years ago — has been dismissed as the Olympic version of some Esther Williams film from the 1940s and 1950s. But it is every bit as athletic as gymnastics with the added challenge of, well, being submerged.

The therapist will see you now — on a hike or a surfboard. In Southern California, Surf Sister Sessions, a surf therapy program run by Groundswell Community Project, is just one of the many therapy programs that now blend talk therapy with physical activities to help people process. Across the country, you can find everything from dog walking therapy to horticulture therapy to improv therapy.

Also ... we’re launching a new newsletter. Los Angeles has so much to explore, from dazzling dive bars to art-house cinema to an exploding array of art galleries. But how do you navigate this sprawling world if you don’t even know where to start? We get it. That’s why every Wednesday we’re bringing you L.A. Goes Out, where we gather top recommendations from the L.A. Times staff for exploring and experiencing our city. Sign up here.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey and Elvia Limón. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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