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Rep. Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso face off on Wednesday evening in their first — and only scheduled — televised debate in this year’s race for mayor of Los Angeles.
With Caruso down by double digits to Bass in the most recent public opinion poll, the pressure will be on the Republican-turned-Democrat billionaire developer to shake up the dynamics of the contest.
The debate, which is co-hosted and being televised by FOX 11 in Los Angeles, comes with less than three weeks to go until ballots are mailed to California voters in the November election.
Bass, a former state lawmaker who’s spent the past decade representing a U.S. congressional district located west and south of downtown Los Angeles, and Caruso are facing off in the general election after winning the top two spots in a June primary. Bass grabbed 43% of the vote, and Caruso won 36%, far ahead of the rest of the contenders in the crowded field of candidates.
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Caruso, who’s run a law-and-order style campaign and has pledged to immediately tackle rising crime and homelessness in the nation’s second most populous city, has recently spotlighted the questions Bass is facing around a nearly $100,000 scholarship she received from the University of Southern California for a master’s degree. The scholarship has been cited in a corruption case involving suspended Los Angeles city councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Bass, who’s also pledged to tackle the city’s homelessness and crime issues, has highlighted Caruso’s tenure on the USC Board of Trustees, during which the school faced lawsuits regarding decades of alleged sexual abuse by a campus gynecologist.
Bass enjoys the backing of such prominent Democrats as President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris (who served as California attorney general and U.S. senator before winning election as vice president in 2020) and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Among those supporting Caruso are billionaire Elon Musk and rapper and entertainer Snoop Dogg.
The winner will succeed term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose nomination by Biden to serve as U.S. ambassador to India is currently stalled.
The Los Angeles Times, Univision 34, KPCC, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Los Angeles Urban League and Loyola Marymount University are also co-hosting Wednesday’s back-to-back debates — which lead with a showdown for L.A. County sheriff ahead of the mayoral debate. The debates, which will take place at Skirball Cultural Center, begin at 6 p.m. PT.