Bass has pulled ahead of Caruso. She can thank those last-minute mail-in voters

Mayoral candidates Karen Bass, left, and Rick Caruso
Los Angeles mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso are headed to the Nov. 8 runoff.
(Christina House, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Karen Bass pulled ahead of rival Rick Caruso in the primary election for Los Angeles mayor on Tuesday after a surge of vote-by-mail ballots boosted the congresswoman and several other progressive candidates.

Over the last week, a flood of late-arriving mail ballots propelled left-of-center candidates in races for mayor, city attorney and multiple council seats.

The June 7 election was the first at City Hall since a new law went into effect ensuring that every voter receives a ballot, a process designed to bring in more voters and focus less on a single day of in-person voting.


Bass’ momentum is likely being fueled by a group of voters who are younger and more diverse, political consultant Bill Carrick said.

“The people who are voting late now are different than the traditional vote-by-mail voter, who is always older,” said Carrick, who isn’t involved in either campaign.

The results of the mayor’s race — the first open seat in nearly a decade — has seesawed since election night. Caruso initially came in first, with a 5-percentage-point lead. But Bass gained ground in subsequent updates.

On Tuesday, results showed that she has received 41% of the vote to Caruso’s 38%.

Still, the race remains highly fluid with many votes left to count — more than 365,820 countywide. The final results won’t be known for days or weeks.

Bass appeared on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart” over the weekend and predicted she would win the primary if the trajectory holds.

The next five months of campaigning will likely amplify the partisan schism between Rick Caruso and Karen Bass.

June 8, 2022

“You would have thought $40 million compared to $3 million, that I would have been wiped out,” Bass said, highlighting how Caruso’s campaign spending overshadowed her spending.


“Angelenos want a mission-driven, battle-tested leader with the proven experience of pulling people together to confront the crises we are facing,” Anna Bahr, spokeswoman for the Bass campaign, said after Tuesday’s vote update.

Caruso spokesperson Peter Ragone said the campaign is “excited to accomplish our goal of making the runoff and giving voters a chance to clean up L.A.”

“Voters will have a clear choice when they go to the polls between a career politician who just last week went on record saying she can’t fix the homelessness crisis and a leader who can clean up L.A. and deal with homelessness, crime and corruption,” Ragone said.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of voter data firm Political Data, was cautious about predicting trends in the mayor’s race.

“We don’t know the composition of the outstanding ballots, how Democratic they are, or how Latino they are,” he said.

Mitchell said he’s been struck by a lack of consistency in voting patterns. Riverside and Orange counties have seen “red shifts” as more votes have come in, but in San Francisco, the election to recall Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin has narrowed since election day.


The mail-in ballots also helped progressive candidates in races against incumbent council members.

On L.A.’s Eastside, community activist Eunisses Hernandez was ahead of City Councilman Gil Cedillo, dealing a setback to his bid for a third and final term.

Cedillo was trailing Hernandez by 292 votes, according to the latest count released by the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk. Hernandez had 50.65% compared with Cedillo’s 49.35%.

Hugo Soto-Martinez, an organizer with Unite Here Local 11, widened his lead over City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in the race for the Echo Park-to-Hollywood council seat. Soto-Martinez led O’Farrell, 38.3% to 33.8%, according to Tuesday’s results.

Meanwhile, in the race for an open council seat on the Westside, political aide Katy Young Yaroslavsky continues to hold a significant lead over attorney Sam Yebri. Yaroslavsky was at 49.3% and Yebri at 29.9%, according to the latest results.

In the Los Angeles city attorney’s race, civil rights attorney Faisal Gill widened his lead over former prosecutor Marina Torres. Gill has argued that the city attorney’s office has been “unacceptably broad in its prosecution of misdemeanor charges.” If elected, he has vowed a 100-day pause in new prosecutions to evaluate policies.


In the L.A. County sheriff’s race, incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s lead over retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna tightened slightly. Villanueva had secured nearly 32% of the vote, while Luna received about 26%. In third place, Sheriff’s Lt. Eric Strong received just over 14%.

In the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) was at 32% in the race for county supervisor District 3. The gap between him and West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath, who is at 27%, has narrowed. Hertzberg had a 9-point lead over Horvath in early returns. State Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) is in third with 23%.

The next vote update from the county is expected Friday.

Times staff writers David Zahniser, Alene Tchekmedyian and Jeong Park contributed to this report.