Forty million dollars. This is the amount spent on campaign by businessman Rick Caruso to break into the race for mayor of Los Angeles. The gamble has paid off for the billionaire developer and entrepreneur. Caruso will face veteran Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass in November, who spent 3.2 million and has the support of the party leadership. From these two will come the next mayor of the second most populous city in the United States. This was one of the most anticipated contests in the primaries held this Tuesday in California, which have defined hundreds of candidates. The results have left comfortable victories for Governor Gavin Newsom and Democratic Senator Alex Padilla in a day marked by discreet participation. One of the big defeats of the night was that of the San Francisco prosecutor, who has been removed from office for his progressive approach to fighting crime.
“A few months ago, only 6% of people knew who he was,” businessman Caruso assured on Tuesday night. He got 40% of the vote to Bass’s 38%. His celebration was held at The Grove, a popular mall he owns in downtown Los Angeles. The site has served these weeks as a campaign office and a pilot model for the city that tries to sell to the electorate: one where order, cleanliness and security stand out. Those are the axes that guide the tycoon’s leap into politics, valued at more than 4,000 million dollars, and who has the support of celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk, among others. It is not the first time that Caruso has tried to compete, but there is a fact that made his path easier: after a life as a Republican, this time he entered the race as a Democrat. So the next mayor of Los Angeles is decided between two of the same camp.
With nearly 40 million inhabitants, California has had a primary model for a decade that allows contests like the one mentioned. In most states across the country, Republican and Democratic members elect their party’s candidates to run for office. In California, candidates, regardless of party, compete against everyone on a single ticket that can be voted on by anyone, regardless of political affiliation. The two most voted will meet again in the general. This measure has helped to elect more moderate officials and encourages campaigns where candidates appeal to the general public and not just to the bases of their parties.
Hit in San Francisco
The electorate of California, a progressive stronghold, has issued a worrying alert for Democrats. San Francisco voters on Tuesday revoked the mandate of Chesa Boudin, the district attorney of a city proud of his leftist policies. The elections have suspended the experiments launched by Boudin, a former defense attorney. The 41-year-old lawyer was elected to office in 2019 in the heat of the Black Lives Matter protests and with the promise of reforming prison policies that have filled black and poor prisons. He eliminated bail for minor crimes, was more permissive with recidivist criminals, and increased judicial persecution against police officers. He too tried new approaches to the homeless crisis. Voters have rejected these measures arguing the increase in crime and violence in the city. 60% voted not to finish his term after two and a half years.
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Governor Newsom has taken another step toward his re-election. After widely overcoming a recall election in 2021, one of the stars of the Democratic party is now heading for his second term. Newsom, 55, easily won this Tuesday in a contest where he had no strong rivals and they were unknown in many regions of the state. “Brian Dahle is competing against me, he has an outstanding grade from the National Rifle Association and has signed an anti-abortion pledge. He is anti-science and pro-Trump,” Newsom wrote of his rival in his call to constituents. In November, the president will play the position against Dahle, a local senator who is also a farmer from the north who does not have enough water to irrigate his fields. Dahle intends to channel the anger of the conservative parts of the entity to dethrone the current ruler. It is a difficult task. He got 16% of the votes tonight.
Senator Alex Padilla was another who experienced a smooth day. The first Latino senator arrived in Washington to replace Vice President Kamala Harris, who left the Senate to go to Joe Biden’s White House. In just over a year in the legislature, Padilla has become one of the most important voices in the progressive bloc. This Tuesday he won two contests. The first, to finish the rest of the assignment that concludes in January 2023. And a second as a candidate for the Senate for a full period, six years, until January 2029. Padilla exceeded the two primary elections with 57% and 56% of the votes, respectively. His rival in November will be Republican Mark Meuser.
Fellow Republican Connie Conway was another to fill an empty seat in Washington. With 58% of the votes, she remains with the special election that defined the replacement in the House of Representatives of the right-wing legislator Devin Nunes. He resigned last December from the lower house to follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump and accept the task of the former president, who appointed him head of the social network Truth Social. Conway is also considered a Trumpist.
Rob Bonta, the attorney general of California, easily overcame the challenge after receiving 56% of the vote. Another figure with a progressive ideology, but more pragmatic than Boudin, the lawyer will face Republican Nathan Hochman in a few months.
Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva has prevailed in the primaries for the time being. At the head of one of the largest security corporations in the United States (more than 15,000 employees between agents and civil servants), Villanueva’s management has been criticized for the lack of results and for scandals of mismanagement and tolerance of corruption. The bailiff had stated that he would hold the elections with enough votes to avoid a new appearance in November. It was not so. With 35% of the votes counted, he has only 31%. His rival in the fall elections will be Robert Luna, who was police chief of Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, for seven years.
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