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Why I am voting for Karen Bass for mayor. Voters explain their choice

Rep. Karen Bass hugs her grandson after voting in Baldwin Hills.
Rep. Karen Bass hugs her grandson Henry, 8, after voting at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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With the mayor’s race tightening, The Times spread out across Los Angeles to talk to voters about who they are supporting and why.

This is what Karen Bass supporters had to say about their candidate. (Read what Rick Caruso’s supporters had to say here.)

‘Civil rights and multiracial unity’

Name: Rosalio Muñoz
Age: 76
Occupation: Community organizer
Neighborhood: Lincoln Heights

At the corner of North Broadway and Daly Street in Lincoln Heights, 76-year-old volunteer Rosalio Muñoz held up a sign for the Bass campaign just as a burst of rain approached.

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More than 50 years ago, Muñoz helped organize the Chicano Moratorium, an anti-Vietnam War movement that included a peaceful march through East Los Angeles with roughly 30,000 participants. L.A. County sheriff’s deputies responding to reports of unlawfulness near a post-march rally fired tear gas at those present and beat them with clubs. Three people died, including Los Angeles Times columnist Ruben Salazar, who was fatally struck by a tear gas canister.

Rosalio Muñoz, a Karen Bass supporter, holds up a sign at North Broadway and Daly Street in Lincoln Heights.
Rosalio Muñoz, a Karen Bass supporter and community organizer, holds up a sign at the corner of North Broadway and Daly Street in Lincoln Heights.
(Nathan Solis / Los Angeles Times)

Muñoz said he’s still fighting for the same things he did five decades ago. He thinks Bass is the best candidate to carry on that fight.

“She’s highly qualified, a leader in Congress, a leader in the Legislature and a leader in organizing the community for civil rights and multiracial unity of low- and moderate-income people,” Muñoz said.

After years of community outreach, he said the tenets of his activism still propel him forward: fighting the rise of fascism while ensuring that Latino and Black residents have access to social services and affordable housing.

In previous years, he voted for candidates with the Peace and Freedom Party and other progressive groups. In Bass, Muñoz sees a coalition builder who can address homelessness and housing instability.

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He added that he wants to see Bass sever the cozy connection between exploitative developer interests at City Hall and invest in the city’s public transit system.

The rainy day wasn’t enough to deter Muñoz’s support for Bass — nor that of her detractors. A man approached and asked why Muñoz was voting for Bass, loudly declaring: “I’m voting for Caruso.”

Mike Romero, who explained he also supported Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s reelection campaign, wanted to know why Muñoz would waste his vote on Bass.

The two briefly debated the merits of the Democratic Party, until the rain arrived and washed away their argument.

Two days after racist comments on a leaked recording rocked L.A., mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso focused on how to bridge the city’s racial divides in their latest debate.

Oct. 11, 2022

Against a ‘pseudo-Trumpian developer’

Name: Matt Black
Age: 38
Occupation: Screenwriter, producer and professor
Neighborhood: Laurel Canyon

At the Silver Lake Dog Park, clusters of canines chased after mud-stained tennis balls, sprinting across a patch of dirt alongside the Silver Lake Reservoir. Their owners, meanwhile, were grappling with opposing views on who should be L.A.’s next mayor.

Leaning against a bench as his bulldog, Olive, scampered nearby, Matt Black, 38, said he’s planning to vote for Karen Bass. But his support for the congresswoman was less a vote for her and more one against billionaire businessman Rick Caruso, whom he called a “pseudo-Trumpian developer” and a “nightmare.”

Matt Black holds his dog at the Silver Lake Dog Park in Los Angeles.
Matt Black, 38, of Laurel Canyon, holds his dog at the Silver Lake Dog Park on Oct. 27 in Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A former campaigner for Councilwoman Nithya Raman, Black worried that Caruso’s standing puts him on the side of developers and the NIMBY — not in my backyard — constituency, a major problem, Black said, especially amid an ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.

“At the very least, it feels like a bad look, not what we want to project in the middle of a housing crisis — or ever,” Black said.

Rick Caruso and Karen Bass are running for Los Angeles mayor. Here is your guide to the race.

Nov. 11, 2022

‘Right side of history’

Name: Miranda Tower and Brittany Crawley
Ages: Tower, 28; Crawley, 35
Occupation: Tower: actor/glasses sales rep; Crawley: cannabis educator
Neighborhood: Sherman Oaks

Partners Miranda Tower and Brittany Crawley, of Sherman Oaks, said they both plan to vote for Bass. The couple sat on camping chairs, casting lines into the artificial lake at Lake Balboa/Anthony C. Beilenson Park.

“I’m tired of seeing big money win in politics,” said Tower, 28, referencing the nearly $100 million Caruso has invested in his own campaign. “There are so many people in L.A. who don’t have that money and are often underrepresented.”

Miranda Tower, 28, of Sherman Oaks, at Lake Balboa/Anthony C. Beilenson Park on Oct. 28.
(Jonah Valdez / Los Angeles Times)
Brittany Crawley, 35, of Sherman Oaks, at Lake Balboa/Anthony C. Beilenson Park on Oct. 28.
(Jonah Valdez / Los Angeles Times)

Tower and Crawley also questioned Caruso’s tendency to “flip flop.” They looked at his change of political party, from Republican to Democrat. The two also cautioned against his previous support for politicians who opposed abortion, calling the businessman “sneaky.”

“I’m not saying Karen’s not, but she is a woman, and for me, I think that means a lot right now for reproductive rights,” said Crawley, who is still reeling from the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

She and Tower grew up in Virginia, which she acknowledged as the former capital of the Confederacy. Crawley said that there, she was surrounded by regressive and bigoted views that threatened the civil rights of women and people of color. She worried that someone like Caruso would be an extension of those views.

“I’m gonna go with her,” Crawley said, referring to Bass, “because I think she’s on the right side of history.”

While the L.A. mayoral race has been cast as an ideological showdown between Karen Bass, a progressive who’s willing to embrace alternatives to policing, and Rick Caruso, a more conservative law-and-order candidate, their views on public safety are not that different.

Oct. 26, 2022

‘Not just going to King Taco’

Name: Royette Caldwell
Age: 50+
Occupation: In-home care worker
Neighborhood: Jefferson Park

Outside McCarty Memorial Christian Church in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, Royette Caldwell handed out bags of canned food and bread. She wore a T-shirt, a blue surgical mask and sunglasses while surrounded by volunteers and stacks of donated quilts. Caldwell donates her time to hand out food and clothes to people in need who may not be homeless but might be close to losing everything after one bad day.

She shook her head when she thought about the mayor’s race and Caruso’s run for office. She has been flooded with his attack ads against Bass. When she talks about voting, Caldwell directly addresses Caruso.

“You’re spending your money on all these ads against Karen Bass. But what are you doing in the neighborhood?” Caldwell asked. “Not just going to King Taco or certain stores in Compton. I wonder how often you did any of that before you decided to run for mayor.”

Volunteer Royette Caldwell said she will vote for Karen Bass in the mayor's race.
Volunteer Royette Caldwell loads a box of canned food and other goods for Anthony Aloysius at the McCarty Memorial Christian Church in the Jefferson Park neighborhood during a food giveaway.
(Nathan Solis / Los Angeles Times)

Caruso’s lack of connection to neighborhoods across L.A. is a red flag for Caldwell, who said she’s voting for Bass “hands down.”

Caldwell has lived in the Jefferson Park neighborhood for nearly three decades and remembers when gang violence was at its worst in the 1990s. Crime is still a major issue for Caldwell, but she says that homeless and mental health services are lacking.

“I have not heard any of them [candidates] talking about how they would open up mental health institutions, which we had years ago,” Caldwell said. “Getting homeless people the care they need versus putting them on the street to potentially die seems important.”

She thinks the next mayor will need to address the inherent racism and corruption on the City Council. The secret recording of former council President Nury Martinez, Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera making racist comments shocked her, but none of it was surprising, she said.

“They shouldn’t be in office if they can’t respect every ethnicity and every race, regardless of their creed,” Caldwell said.

There has to be some sort of mechanism to remove council members when they are caught in these types of scandals, a blanket, zero-tolerance approach to racism and blatant corruption, she said. The next mayor would have to hit that head-on, she said.

“It’s going to be a little tricky,” Caldwell admitted as she loaded a box of canned goods for a neighbor.

Caruso wants thousands of tiny homes and ‘sleeping pods.’ Bass proposes some interim units, while pushing to expand vouchers, motel rooms, apartments and incentives to landlords.

Sept. 4, 2022

‘Comes from a working family’

Name: Veronica Casarez
Age: 36
Occupation: Community organizer
Neighborhood: Boyle Heights

When Veronica Casarez bought her home in Boyle Heights — the same neighborhood where she was born and raised — she knew she’d have to make the repairs to her fixer-upper herself. She even built a tiny lending library outside her home.

She said she appreciates a candidate who makes the most of what they have — someone like Bass.

To Casarez, Bass can address homelessness, the lack of affordable housing and high rents without overlooking low-income residents. There are so many things that Casarez wants Bass to accomplish, but one goal stands out.

“I think it comes down to one thing: that’s having a good job, a well-paying job — and one job should be enough for everyone,” Casarez said. “We have people that are working two to three jobs just to pay the rent and provide for their children.”

Casarez had her first daughter when she was 15 and her second at 17. She knows what it’s like to work three jobs to pay the bills.

Veronica Casarez, a community organizer and Bass supporter, poses next to a tiny library in Boyle Heights.
(Nathan Solis / Los Angeles Times)

“I know what it is to struggle,” said Casarez, who has worked as a community organizer and is a lifelong Democrat.

“[Bass] comes from a working family, she comes from labor and she’s always been there supporting the middle class, the low-income communities,” Casarez said.

She said Caruso is a successful businessman, but she thinks his talents and money could be better spent elsewhere.

“With all that money that he has, he doesn’t need to be a politician. He doesn’t need to be in office to make a difference,” Casarez said. “He could be Mother Teresa.”

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