L.A. on the Record: It’s Bass. How did she do it?

Mayor-elect Karen Bass mingles after her appearance at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre
Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass mingles after her appearance at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Thursday.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our local elections newsletter. It’s Dakota Smith at the helm, with help from David Zahniser. We will be off next week for Thanksgiving, then back in your inboxes the week of Nov. 28 with the latest on transition planning and pre-swearing-in machinations.

Following a whirlwind week of election news, Julia Wick and Ben Oreskes offer behind-the-scenes details about Rep. Karen Bass’ winning mayoral campaign. Some say it came down to Democratic party bigwigs, including President Obama, Vice President Harris and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who stepped in to highlight the partisan divide between the two mayoral candidates and ultimately helped dampen Rick Caruso’s ascent in the last weeks of the race.

“After Obama’s endorsement came through, the campaign quickly plowed every dollar it had into getting that endorsement on television. The spot blunted Caruso’s momentum and appearances alongside Harris and Sanders gave her campaign a jolt. The Bass campaign’s final poll showed her up 8 percentage points with likely voters.”

And what of that $100 million? Caruso’s advisors blame his loss on the national mood around abortion and the candidate’s prior Republican registration.

People thought, “‘He doesn’t feel like a Democrat despite some thinking he would do a better job on issues,’” said one Caruso advisor.


Julia also covered the historic moment that Bass won, writing that she learned of her victory while she was in her Los Angeles congressional office. And Ben was at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Thursday, where Bass made her first appearance since winning the race, saying her first focus upon taking office would be to help people living in large homeless encampments.

“We will identify very specific areas where we will get people housed and we will roll out a whole plan in order to do that,” she said.

She also said Thursday that the fact that she had become the first woman elected mayor hadn’t yet sunk in.

“To be honest with you, I’m not processing that part of it,” Bass told radio host Tavis Smiley. “I’m really focused on getting things up and running, because I only have three weeks and that’s a crazy amount of time to try to pull an administration together.”

State of play

Some other trends that we’re seeing around City Hall:

  • THE DSA’S ONE-FIFTH: With last week’s election, the Democratic Socialists of America now has three affiliated seats on the City Council, or a fifth of its overall members. DSA’s L.A. chapter has been a political powerhouse over the past two years, unseating three incumbents at City Hall. The group helped elect Councilmember Nithya Raman in 2020 and Councilmember-elect Eunisses Hernandez in June. The latest victory was won by labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez, who prevailed in his race against Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.
  • SIX WOMEN, FINALLY: The City Council has had an extreme shortage of women members over the past decade. But this year’s election is changing that in a significant way. With Traci Park’s win in Council District 11, the council will have for the first time in its history six women. The others will be Hernandez, Raman, Katy Young Yaroslavsky, Monica Rodriguez and Heather Hutt.
  • MORE HISTORY-MAKING: Finance law attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto declared victory Wednesday in the Los Angeles city attorney’s race and will become the first woman to hold the office.
  • PLUS HORVATH: With West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath winning her race to succeed County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, women will continue to occupy every seat on the five-member county Board of Supervisors. Horvath will join Supervisors Hilda Solis, Holly Mitchell, Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger.
  • TWO HERTZBERG LOSSES: Horvath’s victory means there were two Hertzberg losses in this year’s election. State Sen. Bob Hertzberg fell short in his bid to succeed Kuehl. Meanwhile, his son, Daniel Hertzberg, lost to nonprofit director Caroline Menjivar in the race for a state Senate seat in the San Fernando Valley.
  • BATTLE FOR THE TOP? A tweet from Spectrum anchor Kate Cagle saying Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson “confirms he’s interested in becoming City Council president” caused a minor stir among the tens of people who closely follow intra-Council palace intrigue. Harris-Dawson, who said he was taking “a hard look” at the position in the video clip, was more circumspect when approached by The Times on Thursday. “I’m not planning to challenge Krekorian in December,” he said. “He’s doing a wonderful job. He has two years left on the City Council.”
  • TACOS IN HIGH PLACES: A photo of Bass and Biden at Tacos 1986 in Westwood last month is now framed in the White House hanging in a hallway near the press briefing room, according to Politico White House correspondent Christopher Cadelago, who quipped “Fast turnaround on these” in a tweet.

And in news about City Hall and beyond....

NO DISCIPLINE: An assistant chief for the Los Angeles Fire Department was charged with a misdemeanor hit and run. But he didn’t face discipline with the LAFD. Instead, the department gave him a lucrative assignment as a manager of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination program. Over a period of two years, he made $354,000 in overtime in addition to his annual salary of $221,500.


UNWANTED FANS: The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office won “unwanted and unexpected praise from Trump and his allies in recent weeks” amid an investigation into a small Michigan software company that is accused of improperly storing personal information related to election workers on servers in China.

OFFICE MOVES: Councilmember-elect Yaroslavsky has already picked a chief of staff. Yaroslavsky says she’s hired Gary Gero, who served until recently as the chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles County. Gero sits on the board of the L.A. League of Conservation Voters and also has worked at the Department of Water and Power.

POPPING UP: City Councilmember Kevin De León, who hasn’t been seen at the City Council in recent weeks following the leak of an incendiary conversation at the county Fed, is inching back into public life. He went live on Instagram on Friday to tell viewers that he was in Boyle Heights doing a Thanksgiving food giveaway.

An exterior view of La Carreta Restaurant in East Los Angeles
La Carreta Restaurant in East Los Angeles on Nov. 18, 2022.
(Dakota Smith / For The Times)

The Times also briefly caught sight of De León and City Councilmember Gil Cedillo meeting Friday at La Carreta Restaurant in East Los Angeles. The two men, who have declined to resign from the council despite many calls for them to do so, were hustled into the back of the building by restaurant staff when The Times and other media arrived. De León was later seen leaving the restaurant and hopping into a waiting mini-van. Cedillo also managed to avoid reporters.

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  • Who’s running the city? Still Eric Garcetti. His confirmation as ambassador of India awaits a Senate vote.

(If you have an endorsement you’d like to flag for next week, please send it to us.)

  • Dig of the week: “Los Angeles is a hot mess. Can Karen Bass fix it?” — via the Washington Post.

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