Businessman Ramit Varma enters L.A. mayor’s race. Will Rick Caruso be next?
Not every mayoral candidate holds a kickoff event in a Major League Soccer stadium.
But that was the case Wednesday night when Ramit Varma, an entrepreneur from Encino, rented out Banc of California Stadium to announce his entry into the crowded field of candidates hoping to succeed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Addressing a crowd of about 400 people, Varma promised to end homelessness, cut government waste and “build a city of the future — right now.”
“We are losing the very things that made Los Angeles Los Angeles,” said Varma, 46, adding that the dream of being able to live in L.A. is increasingly out of reach.
Varma blamed the “political machine” at City Hall and criticized the lack of housing built so far under Proposition HHH, the $1.2-billion bond measure passed by voters in 2016. He also questioned the city spending money on programs such as healing centers in the name of being “woke.”
“You can choose more of the same,” Varma said. “Or you can choose to reboot L.A.”
Varma, a co-founder of the online tutoring firm Revolution Prep, pledged to put at least $1 million of his own money toward his campaign.
Varma, who is of Indian descent, joins a field that includes L.A. City Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Kevin de León, Rep. Karen Bass, City Atty. Mike Feuer, business leader Jessica Lall and real estate agent Mel Wilson.
The Los Angeles City Council moved forward a plan to provide families with cash assistance across the city. The application period opens Friday.
Developer Rick Caruso is also looking at joining the field. A Caruso representative told The Times Wednesday that Caruso has been working with Bearstar Strategies — which has led campaigns for politicians such as former Gov. Jerry Brown and Vice President Kamala Harris — as he weighs a run.
“While a final decision hasn’t been made, Rick is seriously considering a run for mayor and as part of that consideration he has worked with numerous people, including Bearstar Strategies, to analyze the situation and determine how best he can help solve L.A.'s mounting problems,” a representative said.
Caruso choosing to run would dramatically alter the race. For now, Varma and candidates Lall and Wilson are all touting their business experience.
Many in the crowd Wednesday had worked with Varma or were longtime friends. Some had flown in from the Bay Area.
Marc Merrill, co-founder of the video game developer Riot Games, urged the crowd to support Varma as he talked about the city’s poverty. “It breaks our hearts to look around and see what’s been happening,” said Merrill, one of several people who spoke at the campaign launch.
Marjorie Gayle came from her home in View Park with a friend. “I’m trying to find out what everyone’s vision is,” Gayle said, surveying the room of attendees sipping cocktails and eating lobster rolls.
The city’s lack of affordable housing is her biggest concern, she said, adding, “I definitely want to hear all views.”
Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.
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