Mayoral Election: Down to the Wire


Illustration by Amelia Chiarelli

Congresswoman Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso ’76 campaign to be elected as mayor of Los Angeles.

Davis Marks

The 2022 LA mayoral election between Congresswoman Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso ’76 is too close to call at the time of writing. As of Nov. 11, Bass leads Caruso by 4,484 votes with 62% of votes counted.

Both Caruso and Bass expressed optimism in the days following election night, but estimates of hundreds of thousands of uncounted votes mean the final result will take days or weeks to determine. Following the usage of vote-by-mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, California adopted a law in September 2021 making the practice permanent and now has universal mail voting for all elections. Due to this law, California gives mail ballots postmarked by election day an additional seven days to arrive at election offices, making the tabulation process longer.

Daniella Goldrich ’23 said the uncertainty of the election shows just how important it is to vote.  

“My biggest takeaway from the mayoral race is the incredibly slim margin,” Goldrich said. “Regardless of which candidate you support, this result demonstrates how each individual vote has the power to swing an election. With this in mind, I hope that the race has encouraged the Los Angeles community to become more politically aware and engaged.

If Caruso wins, he will be the second school alumnus in a row to serve as L.A. mayor, succeeding incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88. If elected, Bass will be the first woman and woman of color mayor of L.A. 

Junior Prefect Isiuwa Odiase ’24 said it is incredibly inspiring to see Bass campaigning for mayor, as she provides representation for women of color in politics.

“I want to set this statement apart from any political biases out there and say [that] representation in government is essential to the citizens that abide under it,” Odiase said. “That’s why I feel that having someone like Karen Bass take office in a cosmopolitan [area] like Los Angeles will allow for many people from different backgrounds to be heard that didn’t feel that way before. As a black woman myself, Bass is seen a role model to many other women of color. She was able to do what most of us thought couldn’t be possible in this White America that we live in today.”

Bass has been the congresswoman for California’s 37th congressional district since 2011 and was the first African American woman in the country to be speaker of a state legislature. Caruso is the developer of the Grove, Americana and other shopping centers and projects in the city. Previously a Republican, Caruso changed his party registration to Democrat in 2021 and has spent around $100 million of his own money, making this year’s mayoral race the most expensive LA history. The issues of crime and homelessness have become leading issues in the campaign. 

History Teacher Peter Sheehy said it is essential to do research and learn about issues and candidates before voting. 

“Because of the ballot initiatives in California, voting here requires that one do quite a bit of research to be well informed before casting a ballot,” Sheehy said. “There are also a large number of candidates on the ballot that one needs to research. Many of these candidates are not household names. I have encouraged my students to consult a variety of balanced and non-partisan sources for guidance. It’s a bit of work, but it’s well worth the effort.”

According to a Chronicle poll, 42.8% of 158 students surveyed said they had no preference in who wins the election. Among students with a preference, 35.8% said they support Bass and 21.4% said they support Caruso.

Senior Prefect Rowan Jen ’23, who voted for Caruso, said he selected him because Caruso is not a politician. 

“I should preface by saying I don’t know much about LA politics and I certainly haven’t done rigorous research,” Jen said. “As such, my vote for Caruso operates pretty much outside the realm of specific policy. Instead, my vote reflects my general disillusionment with career politicians and relative optimism with outsiders capacity to succeed in government.”

Unlike Jen, Head Prefect Simon Lee ’23 said he feels that prior political experience is important to be an effective mayor. 

“I support Bass over Caruso because generally, especially for the executive office, such as mayor, president or governor, I think that the people who run should have some kind of prior experience in government,” Lee said. “In an office where you perform the basic day-to-day executive functions of government, I think it’s valuable to have someone who has that sort of political experience.” 

Jen said Caruso’s experience in business shows he can effectively lead and solve problems facing the city.  

“I don’t subscribe to the belief that ‘rising up the ranks’ is a necessary prerequisite for political success, in fact, I think that it can often be the opposite,” Jen said. “I think that the most important trait in good leaders political leaders is problem solving capabilities, and frankly, I believe that success in the business arena is a much better positive indicator of problem solving abilities than success in governmental bureaucracies.”

Manu Markman ’23 said he disapproves of Bass’ policies and hopes if elected, Caruso will decrease crime in the area.

“I think Caruso has a much stronger platform on crime and has a much better record ‘governing’ compared to Bass in managing the many shopping malls that he owns,” Markman said. “[Bass], as my representative, no less, has sat in Washington doing absolutely nothing, [and is] shielded from the reality in LA and [is] sympathetic to the money-wasting [and] police-curbing national Democratic bureaucracy that has put places like LA in this mess in the first place. So, I see Caruso as a vote for change and an opportunity to return to the old, better LA.”

President Rick Commons said the school does not take a position on the election, and he does not believe the outcome will impact the school. 

“I think it’s it’s a fascinating election and like a lot of people, I have been following it,” Commons said. “The fact that one of the candidates is a graduate of our school doesn’t affect the way the school responds to the election. I don’t think the school has a position that one of the candidates would be able to attend to our values and interests, whether it’s the River Park project or issues that matter to us,  better than another.”

Associate Head of School Laura Ross said she hopes members of the school community do what they can to be civically engaged as individuals. 

“As citizens of our city, we should all care about and figure out who we think is going to help support what we hope for our city,” Ross said. “As a nonprofit institution, we can’t and shouldn’t be in the business of endorsing a political candidate over another or having an opinion, but I hope that all of our employees and students who can vote, do. I think even more so than ever, people remember that local elections are huge and your own environment is a big deal.” 

Lee said voting for the first time made researching the race more meaningful to him.  

“As someone who is very interested in politics, it was an interesting experience,” Lee said. “I follow races and read a lot of news to keep up with current affairs, but it’s different to do all of that within the context of actually having to make decisions about all these things, rather than just doing it because I’m interested in it.”

According to a Chronicle poll, 93.6% of 158 students surveyed said they were not eligible to vote in the 2022 election.

Goldrich said she views politics as a method of creating change and hopes students will embrace civic engagement in order to make a difference. 

“Whether in our immediate communities or at the national level, politics presents a means to address the issues we see in society,” Goldrich said. “While much of the Harvard-Westlake community can’t vote, political engagement presents a way for us to help enact the change we want to see occur.”