Bass rescinds endorsement for city attorney candidate as Caruso goes on the attack

Karen Bass stands at a podium and speaks into a microphone
Rep. Karen Bass, a candidate for Los Angeles mayor, gathers with supporters at Angel’s Point in Elysian Park in May.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Karen Bass was still six months away from launching her Los Angeles mayoral bid when she endorsed city attorney candidate Faisal Gill in March 2021. At the time, she described Gill as a friend she had known for more than a decade, saying he would champion criminal justice reform and be “a fighter for progressive policies.”

Nearly a year and a half later, Gill is leading the race to be the city’s next top lawyer and Bass is the front-runner to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti.

But the political landscape now looks a bit different than it did in March 2021. As a progressive Democrat vying to lead the nation’s second-largest city amid an uptick in crime, Bass has had to walk a delicate line on issues of policing and public safety. Her opponent, Rick Caruso, has fought to cast her as insufficiently tough on crime, while her party’s leftmost flank has attacked some of her more moderate stances.

This week, as Gill’s progressive criminal justice reform policies — the very thing Bass once hailed about his candidacy — became an issue in the mayoral race, she took the unusual step of revoking her endorsement for a fellow citywide candidate.

Gill — a former Republican turned progressive with a criminal justice and police reform platform — is running to the left of his opponent, finance attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, in the race to succeed City Atty. Mike Feuer.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Bass advisor Doug Herman said her campaign had contacted the Gill campaign Wednesday to withdraw the endorsement.

Bass also disavowed Gill’s controversial proposal to institute a 100-day moratorium on the prosecution of most new misdemeanor charges, with Herman saying she “absolutely disagrees” with it. A version of the policy has been publicly displayed on Gill’s website since at least March of this year, according to a version of the site on Wayback Machine, an internet archive.


The Bass campaign declined to comment on what triggered her decision to revoke her endorsement more than a month after the primary election. But Wednesday’s alleged contact to the Gill campaign came a day after a Caruso aide sent supporters a list of talking points that included criticism of Bass’ endorsement and specifically cited the 100-day moratorium.

Gill, however, disputed the Bass campaign’s timeline. In a Friday afternoon tweet, Gill said the campaign “was informed that Karen was pulling her endorsement this morning & we removed her from the website immediately.”

In response, Herman said the Bass campaign stood by its account.

The public statement from Bass came just before Caruso was slated to hold a news conference Friday attacking Bass for her support of Gill.

Bass’ move necessitated some last-minute rejiggering on Caruso’s part.

Standing outside downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market next to a poster that said “Bass supports Faisal Gill’s extreme positions,” Caruso said he wanted to begin with “some really good news. ... Karen Bass has withdrawn her endorsement of Faisal Gill.”

Caruso went on to say that it was “ridiculous and scary that Karen Bass in the first place ever decided to endorse” Gill.

Gill aims to significantly reduce criminal prosecutions for low-level misdemeanor offenses in favor of diversion programs that address underlying mental health and substance abuse issues, according to his platform, and would institute the 100-day pause to give the office time to reorient to new diversion programs.


The proposed 100-day moratorium would exclude crimes that are “particularly egregious or time-sensitive.”

In a statement, Gill hit back hard at Caruso, accusing him of deceiving voters with “fear-mongering tactics.”

“My policy is focused on certain minor crimes — like loitering, drug possession, minor in possession of alcohol, failure to pay a parking ticket, and failure to appear in court,” Gill said, characterizing the idea that he wouldn’t prosecute “egregious” crimes like domestic battery and assault as Caruso “outright lying about my record.”

After hitting Bass for her prior support of Gill, Caruso pivoted to a slightly contradictory line of attack, critiquing Bass for her shift.

“Once you shine a light on these career politicians, they just run the other way,” Caruso told reporters. Bass’ rescinded endorsement raised the question of how she would handle tough decisions as mayor, Caruso said, suggesting that she would “buckle” under pressure.

Caruso, who was joined by several Grand Central Market business owners, also hit on familiar messaging about crime in the city and the need for a tougher response.

Caruso has sought to differentiate himself with tough-on-crime messaging throughout the campaign, often painting the city in dystopian terms. He advocates significantly expanding the Los Angeles Police Department by adding 1,500 officers, whereas Bass has pledged to restore the LAPD to its authorized size of more than 9,700 officers — a more modest increase of several hundred officers.

With Los Angeles suffering from a surge in homicides and high-profile robberies, public safety and crime are at the forefront of the city’s mayoral contest.

May 27, 2022

About five minutes after Caruso began his news conference, three protesters yelling expletives interrupted the event. Two of them were eventually arrested.

“How much have you given to antiabortion causes, Rick?” Ricci Sergienko, a prominent activist with the People’s City Council, yelled as he recorded the confrontation on his phone. Sergienko, activist Jason Reedy and a third teenage protester verbally confronted Caruso for several minutes as police and security guards steered them off the Grand Central Market steps and back to a public sidewalk.

Caruso maintained composure, smiling and joking at one point to a nearby police officer that the group had to “get tired eventually.”

About two minutes later, Sergienko was cuffed by an LAPD officer.

Officer Tony Im, an LAPD spokesperson, said Sergienko was “arrested for private person’s arrest for battery,” meaning that an individual alleging battery had initiated a private person’s arrest and police had then booked Sergienko. Im said he was not able to provide further information about who made the allegation or what kind of battery had allegedly occurred.

The third protester, a minor, was “arrested for resisting arrest,” according to Im. Im was not able to clarify what the minor was initially being arrested for before allegedly resisting arrest.

Reedy said that he did not have a clear view of the altercation, but that he thought Sergienko might have reached for the phone of an individual who was filming him to move the phone out of his face. Sergienko did not strike the individual, Reedy said.