Tue, May

Political Party Preferences Play Heavily In LA Mayoral, CD-11 Races

CD11 FILE - In what is officially a non-partisan campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles as well as a seat on the LA City Council, the two Democratic progressives are making gains with voters and residents as they stress their democratic credentials in this race to succeed outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti and the retiring Councilmember Mike Bonin.

For US Rep. Karen Bass and Venice tenant’s right advocate Erin Darling have done an effective job of gathering Democratic Party support at the county and city levels, clearly the overwhelming choices of organizational liberals, progressives, union households and activists that has resulted in a plethora of institutional club support as witnessed by the landslide preference of the West LA Democrats who endorsed Darling with over 80% of the vote.

With Bass and Darling running in literally the same philosophical lane as running-mates of sorts, while in contrast the Caruso effort has been stalled for weeks, hardly maintaining the 35% threshold we saw in the June 7 Primary which to date is his highwater mark with voters who do seem to care about a candidate’s loyalty and affiliation on the issues most important to them.

For example on the issue of reproductive rights and choice, 72% of respondents in a recent poll preferred a pro-choice candidacy even though Caruso, who is Roman Catholic and pro-choice too. In that same poll, Bass had a 49-22 positive name ID while Caruso was upside-down with a 22% favorable and 40% unfavorable balance. A new poll released last week from UC Berkeley Governmental Studies that was sponsored by the Los Angeles Times shows that mayoral candidate Karen Bass has increased her lead over rival Rick Caruso by 12 points as reported by The Los Angeles Times. 1,746 registered voters were polled by UC Berkeley Governmental Studies between August 9 and August 15 and Bass’ lead rose from the 7% lead that Bass had over Caruso in the primary in June to a double-digit lead. 

In the case of Caruso, a sometimes Democrat who used to be a Republican as well as an independent has tried to talk issues first and philosophical preferences second much the way former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg morphed his standing out of the shadow of his predecessor Rudy Giuliani as his successor to become an independent to eventually a Democrat in an ill-advised run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020.

For most party types, Bloomberg just was never regarded as a party member worthy of a presidential nomination.

And in the case of Rep. Karen Bass and her long resume of party service in the California legislature, Speaker of the General Assembly, long service in the House of Representatives, high consideration for a Biden-level cabinet post and even the shortlist for the vice-presidency, her mayoral candidacy is being showered in national support from the President as well as Vice-President Kamala Harris moving forward.

For the entire Democratic Party structure is all-in for the Congresswoman who easily withstood a $43 million barrage of spending and attack ads by Caruso, who was running for office for the first time.

There are those who say that if not for Caruso’s obscene spending in the June 7th Primary, Congresswoman Karen Bass would actually be Mayor-elect Bass, and this race for all intent and purposes is already dead on arrival!

For recent polling and results from the June Primary here in Venice indicate a voter preference for Bass, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and CD-11 challenger Traci Park for city council.

In the case of Bass, who led Caruso 43-36% citywide, Bass registered an even better performance here in Venice defeating the billionaire developer 46.88% to 37.69%. In election precincts closest to the ocean here in Dogtown, Bass led 766-576 and in my precinct, Bass defeated Caruso 682-584.

While Villanueva defeated Long Beach Chief Robert Luna 30.66% to 25.85% countywide, Villanueva expanded his lead in Venice from 33.74% to Luna’s 25.1%. With Luna again the Democratic Party preference, almost all of the eliminated primary opponents are supporting his candidacy making a Villanueva reelection problematic and possibly unlikely.

Villanueva became a local favorite thanks to his strong opposition to Mike Bonin’s encampment policies at Venice Beach that drew national attention in the summer of 2021 during the height of the pandemic.

In the heated race to replace LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica, West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath easily scooped up some 70% of the vote in the West LA Democrats’ endorsement while defeating California Senator and longtime political icon Robert Hertzberg 35.57% to the Senator’s 21.9% in Venice who finished behind fellow Senator Henry Stern.

Districtwide, Hertzberg led Horvath in the June Primary 31.08% to Horvath’s 27.74%.

In the most competitive of the three races, CD-11 found Erin Darling leading fellow attorney Traci Park with 34.67% to Park’s 28.97% in the June Primary.

However, Park reversed those numbers in Venice by a score of 34.64% to Darling’s 32.85%, despite the fact Darling is a local product and lifelong resident who played Little League Baseball and surfed the beaches of Venice as a teenager and even today. A husband and father to a three-year-old son, many believe Darling is sure to expand his numbers in a place where he is far better known locally while Park, a former Republican actually moved outside CD-11 for some four months in 2021 to Mono Lakes, California only to reregister back in Venice in late April that year before announcing her candidacy in July.

Park had massively outspent Darling some 10-1 in the primary contest, and Darling was the last candidate to enter the race and despite that disadvantage, passed Park comfortably in the final primary results!

The Achilles Heel for Park, despite having a sizable head start, is that her standing with organizational Democrats has been a struggle to date as Darling is an avid Bass supporter while it is unclear who Park supports in the race for LA Mayor to date.

Park’s lack of Democratic Party or community credentials seemed to be the difference in Darling’s surprise primary performance that stunned many observers.

Many assume Park will eventually endorse Caruso since she was an original supporter of Councilman Joe Buscaino before he left the race to endorse the $100 million dollar, yacht-owning billionaire.

Park has countered that Darling was a member of the more progressive and environmental Green Party of California but does not dispute the fact she was a registered Republican and has accepted independent expenditure funding from the California apartment lobby, which traditionally opposes rent control and rent stabilization. However, Park reiterated she does support rent control in a recent ZOOM forum.

Park has also accepted campaign contributions from several high-profile Republicans such as Bill Simon, Jr of the Pacific Palisades who ran for governor in 2002 as the nominee of the GOP. Simon was a longtime trustee of The Heritage Foundation, which is an American conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., primarily geared towards public policy. The foundation took a leading role in the conservative movement during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose policies were taken from Heritage’s policy study Mandate for Leadership. 

In a ZOOM interview held this evening with the Homeless Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org), Darling called his race with Park “a battle for the soul of the Westside,” that strengthening rental protections and offering legal counsel in lieu of skyrocketing rents to average folks critical to a rapid response of homelessness that is killing five individuals per day. Darling is committed to a “pipeline out of encampments that must continue” if we are to defeat the most pressing issue facing voters today.

“This is the wealthiest district in all of Los Angeles. We can provide a tangible solution. A room with a door. We can secure permanent funding. We need a concerted effort, a targeted approach. We must be good neighbors and scale-up this process.”

“I won’t be issuing blank checks. I support an accountability oversight. I will hold bureaucracies accountable. Project management is crucial for our overall success,” offered Darling on the encampment crisis.

In a previous interview, Darling emphasized he “was never a Republican,” and considered his opponent one of the most right-of-center candidates in all of Los Angeles in 2022.

Park, who has positioned herself as a “law and order” candidate with a twist of populism has strong support from many of the collective bargaining groups representing law enforcement that at one time endorsed Mike Bonin like the LAPPL in 2013 and again in 2017.

Darling prided himself on his Democratic and progressive values but emphasized his ability to work with people and individuals he does not agree.

Darling reeled off the endorsements of the LA Democratic Party, Los Angeles Times, Sierra Club, California Senator Ben Allen, LA Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and recently elected Assemblymember Tina McKinnor.

“They all are serving and representing Venice. I want to join them in this grassroots effort to lead on the issue of homelessness with best practices.”

“The status quo is not working. We have the talent and the resources. We must be scaling up solutions. This is a profound opportunity. I will provide the policy initiatives and avoid the partisan chatter. I will visit the encampments and offer not just empathy, but a way out and a way back.”

(Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who is covering the various races for LA Supervisor, Mayor and City Council in CD-11. Have a take on the race? Contact him via e-mail at [email protected])