DEEGAN ON LA—-After ducking out of public sight briefly, nearly-Mayor Rick Caruso emerged a few days ago to say he’s back in the fight…that is, on behalf of others.
Christmas by Caruso comes early, toting his bag full of cash, his brain full of ideas, and his bona fides shaped as a successful businessman and authentic political candidate now alloyed into a potential kingmaker. Or, a Congressperson-maker.
His targets are five California congressional districts won by President Biden in 2020 but flipped into Republican seats in 2022. Caruso wants to help flip them back to Democratic control in 2024. Ongoing Republican disfunction in the House highlights how important each seat is. Right now, the Red party has a razor thin margin of control which adds urgency to Caruso’s objectives.
The LA Times has reported that in the 2022 elections, “Republican incumbents held on to seats in the Central Valley, northern Los Angeles County and Orange County that Democrats were confident about winning because of Biden’s success in these districts.” Caruso may be targeting them for action. CityWatch was unable to verify with Caruso’s team exactly which seats he has in mind.
He is not doing this alone. Caruso has allied with California Congressman Pete Aguilar (CD-33) of San Bernardino, a ten-year House veteran, who is chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Aguilar’s California House Majority Fund has already banked a $25,000 donation from Caruso.
Aguilar’s messaging is clean and succinct “With only five seats needed to take back the House, it's critical that Democrats running in these districts have the resources they need to win”. Enter Caruso.
He has nothing to lose. He’s been there, done that and is putting forward the politico Rick Caruso v.2. This time, he has a clear field with nobody challenging him or trying to take him down. He has mostly calm seas and smooth sailing ahead, but pirate attacks are a part of politics, and Caruso will likely not get through this unscathed. If his candidates win, and that helps the Blue party regain control of the House, he will be accoladed with a laurel leaf crown, as the Greeks used to honor their heroes.
This is good news for the California Congressional candidates he plans on supporting and encouraging news for the chances of Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives.
Twenty-four hours is a long time in politics, and the 2024 election he’s targeting is thirteen months away. But, a Governor Caruso (2026), or a Mayor Caruso (2026) may look back at this like Ronald Reagan did after years of campaigning for others and collecting political relationship chits. In Rick’s case, he’s starting with the Caruso quintet.
The Sacramento statehouse, not the homeless in LA, may be a better reach for Rick. His result last November took him off the hook as being accountable to “fix” the homeless problem. He had plans; voters liked hers better. What to do about the ever expanding tar baby of homelessness will redundantly be a campaign issue in the next mayoral election.
The 64-year-old Caruso now adds his “signature”—as he calls his branding—to what could be an expansion of his statewide political possibilities.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)