Why I am voting for Rick Caruso for mayor. Voters explain their choice
With the mayor’s race tightening, The Times spread out across Los Angeles to talk with voters about who they‘re supporting and why.
This is what Rick Caruso supporters had to say about their candidate. (Read what Karen Bass’ supporters had to say here.)
‘A political outsider ... a clean slate’
Name: Grant Perkins
Occupation: Mortgage loan originator
Neighborhood: Harbor City
At Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park in Harbor City, people milled about the trails and geese pecked at the ground. Grant Perkins, 50, walked around in exercise clothes, holding a cup of coffee and wearing sunglasses on an overcast morning.
He gasped when he heard about the election for mayor, thinking at first that he’d missed election day.
Perkins, a mortgage loan originator, said his vote is leaning toward Rick Caruso because he thinks Karen Bass has had plenty of opportunities to tackle Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
While Perkins, who recently moved to Harbor City, admits he’s not an expert on the candidates, he views Bass as a continuation of the status quo.
It doesn’t bother him that Caruso hasn’t held time in public office.
“When you have a political outsider, they’ve sort of got a clean slate,” Perkins said.
“I believe that the solution to homelessness isn’t going to be a city solution, or even a county one. It’s at the statewide or national level. That has to be a public and private partnership,” he continued. “And Karen Bass had ample opportunity to either support or initiate the public-private partnership that is necessary to construct some of this low-income affordable housing and homeless shelters.”
Voters across Southern California braved the rain Tuesday to cast their ballots
Voters approached by The Times were especially concerned about housing and homelessness. Nearly 42,000 people in the city were experiencing homelessness during the February 2022 point-in-time count, up 1.7% from 2020, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Voters want to know how L.A.’s next mayor will do business differently when it comes to affordable housing and providing services that people need to get off the streets.
With a deep sigh, Perkins admits he’s really not thrilled with either choice for mayor.
“I think these are two particularly weak candidates,” he said. “I am not particularly impressed with either of them.”
But he said he thinks Caruso will be victorious.
“I don’t believe Karen Bass has the support that she needs, and Caruso has been a public figure for so long,” Perkins said. “And for whatever reason, public figures nationwide, regardless if they are devoid of any political experience, seem to have the upper hand.”
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.
‘We need a change’
Name: Roc Doo
Neighborhood: Harbor City
While walking on the trails at Ken Malloy Park, Roc Doo, 66, wore a light jacket and a baseball hat. He beamed with pride when asked whether he would be voting in the mayoral race.
“I vote early and mailed it in,” Doo said. “I voted for Rick.”
Doo moved to Harbor City in 2017. He said he feels like he’s seeing more homeless people and a lack of response from the city.
The Taiwanese immigrant arrived in the U.S. in the early 1980s and studied pharmacology at the University of Montana. He started an acupuncture business in Los Angeles in 1990.
“Usually, I vote for Democrats,” Doo said. “Previously, Rick Caruso had been a Republican, and he converted to Democrat. I think it’s a better chance for something new. I say we need a change.”
Caruso’s proposal for providing temporary and permanent housing to those without homes appeals to Doo. Bass’ plans do not go far enough to address the homelessness crisis, he said. If Caruso’s approach doesn’t work, voters can send him out of office in the next election, Doo said with a laugh.
He feels homelessness has started to creep into parts of the city that usually did not see the problem, and the lack of response from the city makes it seem like politicians don’t care about the people.
He thinks there’s no harm in giving Caruso a chance.
“Maybe if he does a good job, I’ll vote for him again,” Doo said. “Everyone deserves a chance, regardless if they are Republican or Democrat.”
While Doo has no problem voting for Caruso, a candidate with no experience as a public servant, he did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016 when he was only a businessman.
“He was a new guy, but it was just something. … I had a gut feeling,” Doo said.
Rick Caruso is expected to spend more than $53 million on advertising in the L.A. mayor’s race, far outpacing his opponent, Karen Bass.
‘You gotta do something’ about homelessness
Name: Anthony Harvey
At the Silver Lake Dog Park, Anthony Harvey, 57, sat on a plastic chair next to his Labrador-pit bull mix, named Mikhail after Mikhail Gorbachev because the dog has a light brown mark along its forehead, similar to the late Soviet leader’s birthmark. Formerly unhoused, Harvey adopted the dog several years ago for protection while living on the streets.
Harvey said he is drawn to Caruso’s plan for sheltering unhoused Angelenos. He noted Caruso’s pledge to create 30,000 shelter beds in his first year in office, a plan that a Times analysis of city documents found would cost about $660 million a year.
Harvey grew up in Los Angeles amid unstable housing conditions, with his family moving from apartment to apartment, struggling to pay rent. He pointed to a tattoo on his forearm symbolizing his Native American, Black and European ancestry, saying that he’d witnessed unequal treatment from authorities toward his own family.
Due to his prior felony convictions, including for robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and assaulting a police officer, Harvey was unsure whether he could vote. However, state law — bolstered by Proposition 17 in 2020 — restored voting rights for thousands on parole with felony convictions.
After Harvey was released from prison in 2007, he lived out of an RV. His mental and physical health deteriorated, and he developed an addiction to heroin. He is now sober, and in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvey found temporary housing through Project Roomkey. After years spent on a waiting list for federal Section 8 vouchers, he eventually moved into permanent housing in Koreatown, where he has lived since.
“You gotta do something with 70,000 women and children and seniors being forced into the street,” he said.
While he was unhoused, Harvey said, he saw the worst of homelessness in the city. He said he hopes Caruso’s plan will give homeless people — such as those living on skid row, where he witnessed rampant drug addiction and sexual assault — a place to rest and to heal.
“If he’s the worst guy in the world but could put 30,000 people in that, I’d vote for him,” Harvey said.
Rick Caruso and Karen Bass are running for Los Angeles mayor. Here is your guide to the race.
‘Not part of the radical left’
Name: Mike Romero
Occupation: Personal security
Neighborhood: South Los Angeles
While driving near North Broadway and Daly Street, Mike Romero spotted a volunteer with the Bass campaign holding up a sign. Romero, 48, was making a left turn when he decided to park, get out and tell the person why he’s voting for Caruso.
“I mean, I don’t agree with either candidate 100%,” Romero said.
He doesn’t believe Caruso’s plans to address homelessness will stem the rising number of people living on the street. Romero said he’d rather see more resources go toward county jails so that homeless people with substance-abuse problems could sober up if they are incarcerated.
“That way they can turn themselves around,” said Romero, noting that he’s a volunteer with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s reelection campaign.
Romero said that while Caruso changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic, that doesn’t change his opinion of him as a candidate.
Romero is a registered Democrat, but said he plans straight-ticket voting for Republicans this year — aside from his votes for Democrats Caruso and Villanueva. He doesn’t think the Democratic Party deserves his vote. He voted for Trump in 2020 and thinks Caruso could bring the same type of “new energy” to L.A. and address corruption at City Hall.
“He’s not part of the radical left,” Romero said.
The Bass volunteer Romero pulled over to speak with — community organizer Rosalio Muñoz — stood to the side while he explained his views. Romero said he wanted to try to persuade Muñoz to vote for Caruso.
“I always like to talk to people and get their opinion as to why they’re voting for somebody that I’m not voting for and then see where we differ,” Romero said after pressing Muñoz to name all of the social programs that Democrats have tried to secure during the Biden administration.
Even during a burst of rain, Romero was still willing to talk politics.
“It’s really important when our country is going to crap, and maybe if it starts lightning right now, I might chicken out and run away,” he said. “But, yeah, the rain will dry eventually.”
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.
‘Focused on helping low-income people’
Name: Sonia Mendoza
Occupation: Community organizer
Neighborhood: Boyle Heights
In Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, Bass signs adorn several storefronts on First Street. But a radio balanced near the window at the Santa Cecilia taqueria plays a Spanish-language ad for Caruso, quietly carrying the message across the plaza.
Community organizer Sonia Mendoza, bathed in early-morning light, says she wants to vote for Caruso.
“He’s focused on helping low-income people and making sure they will have access to resources,” Mendoza, 35, said in Spanish. “He’s also focused on making sure that people have access to healthcare and cleaning up corruption in City Hall.”
Mendoza was born in Guerrero, Mexico, and arrived in the U.S. 22 years ago. At first, she was shocked by California’s diversity. Now she embraces it, while holding on to her own traditions.
Mendoza wants to elect a candidate who will build more affordable housing, control rent and help improve the lives of people living on the street as well as those of low-income families. She thinks Caruso has the best shot at that.
She prefers to vote for Democrats but thinks people should vote no matter which party they support.
“It’s very important for Latinos to participate in the vote and make sure to listen to the people who cannot vote, for those whose voices are silenced,” Mendoza said. “Your vote counts.”
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