U.S. Rep. Karen Bass became the first woman elected mayor of Los Angeles on Wednesday after defeating billionaire developer Rick Caruso.
Bass’ campaign heavily emphasized her policy experience as a six-term congresswoman, as well as her early work as an emergency room physician assistant. She often spoke about her experience bringing together Black and Latino community organizers in the 1990s to address the root causes of crime and the crack epidemic.
A former state Assembly leader, Bass was on Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president during his 2020 presidential campaign and was backed by Biden and vice president Kamala Harris in her mayoral campaign.
She also had the advantage of being a lifelong Democrat in a city where Republicans comprise only about 13% of voters — while Caruso, a former Republican, became a Democrat shortly before entering the race.
Caruso’s campaign, which topped $100 million in expenses, was mostly self-funded, but also received celebrity endorsements from Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian and Snoop Dogg.
Bass, whose campaign wasn’t nearly as lavish, has said “It’s not the power of the money, it’s the power of the people.”
As it turned out, she was right — Bass defeated Caruso with a lead of nearly 47,000 votes.
She said her first order of business at City Hall will be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness and begin relocating the city’s homeless population (over 69,000) into shelters.
“I ran for mayor to urgently confront the crises our hometown faces,” Bass said, according to AP News. “Tonight, 40,000 Angelenos will sleep without a home — and five will not wake up. Crime is increasing and families are being priced out of their neighborhoods. This must change.”
Bass, who will be the second Black mayor to hold the position, will be entering office in the wake of numerous scandals involving racism and corruption. Many consider her new post to be among the most difficult leadership positions in the country.
However, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has known Bass for over 40 years and endorsed her in her bid for mayor, believes she is up to the challenge.
“I have never seen this city so dirty, so rudderless,” he said in his endorsement. “Homeless everywhere, crime going up, and there just seems to be a lack of urgency, a lack of any kind of all-hands-on-deck approach to these crises … Karen has always been a coalition builder.”