Bass and Caruso in a final, frenzied sprint

The marathon campaign for Los Angeles mayor has turned into a sprint in recent days, with Rick Caruso and Karen Bass criss-crossing the city — each in their own double-decker bus — hoping to jail undecided voters and challenge their supporters ahead the election on Tuesday.

Bass produced some political star power when he appeared at a UCLA rally with Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff on Monday. At times throughout the weekend, Bass’s Starline Tours bus appeared like a rolling party with a rotating cast of about 50 people including actress Alfre Woodard, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a host of young supporters.

Caruso spent part of Monday meeting supporters of a corporate organization at a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. A weekend of barnstorming followed, which included a visit to Boyle Heights, a stop at the MLS Cup championship game and a handshake at the homecoming celebrations at USC, his alma mater. Caruso was usually accompanied by helpers on his azure blue biplane.

The race has tightened in recent weeks, with Bass holding a four-point lead — 45% to 41% among likely voters — according to a poll released Friday and conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by The Times . On Monday, voter turnout stood at 19%, with Angelenos dropping off or mailing their ballots, according to data compiled by Political Data Intelligence.

At UCLA on Monday, Harris chaired an event ostensibly about promoting Proposition 1 — the proposed state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights — but one speaker after another spoke about the prospect of becoming Los’ first female mayor to have Angeles.

Recent polls suggest that Bass’ road to victory is about maintaining her popularity with women, Democrats, and those who identify as liberal or progressive. Continuing to remind voters that Caruso was a Republican as recently as 2019 while standing next to the person running first in the presidency had the effect of bolstering those credentials.

“I’m back in LA because I love LA and I know Karen Bass,” Harris told a crowd of nearly 700 people. “Karen Bass has a long history of always standing with the people, fighting for the people, fighting for the people whose voices aren’t in the room but need to be present.”

Rick Caruso hears the concerns of a Los Angeles resident as he walks the Ocean Front Walk in Venice on Friday.

Rick Caruso hears the concerns of a Los Angeles resident as he walks the Ocean Front Walk in Venice on Friday.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Addressing the vice president, Bass reminded the students how much their opponent, Caruso, spent and his past party affiliations.

“Democrats understand that being a Democrat isn’t about ticking a box,” she said. “Being a Democrat has to do with a core set of values. It’s about how you live your life.”

Caruso, speaking with Valley Industry & Commerce Assn. on one of his key campaign issues and said he welcomed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s rejection of homelessness plans for cities across the state and said that Newsom was right to ask for more from local governments.

“Unless we start building aggressively and get people off the streets, we’re going to lose control,” Caruso said, noting that he had just seen a homeless man preparing to inject drugs while he was in the campaign was.

He accused Bass of presenting a modest plan that would not seriously reduce the number of people living on the streets, especially compared to his plan to provide 30,000 new beds for the homeless in his first 300 days in office.

“So we need to get big and bold, and I’m ready for that. I really am,” Caruso said.

This weekend, however, there was less talk of politics and more celebratory and frantic efforts to remind people to vote.

For Caruso, that meant a stop at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights on Saturday, which was teeming with raucous LAFC football fans. The team won the MLS Cup, its first championship, on Saturday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

Caruso jumped off his bus wearing an LAFC hat and into the embrace of about three dozen supporters. He had just gotten home from the game — where a plane with a sign bearing his name was circling the stadium — and later returned to the nearby Memorial Coliseum to cheer for USC and advertise on the tailgates.

“The Latino community can literally change the direction of this city,” Caruso yelled, pointing to a group of voters who could potentially lead him to victory if they showed up. “Your voice is your voice. You’ve been so good to me, supporting me, respecting me.”

At a sports bar down the block, LAFC fans took a break from watching the game to mock him and hold up signs supporting Bass as his bus pulled up.

Rep. Karen Bass, center, in a crowd holding signs

Rep. Karen Bass, center, campaigns at Echo Park.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Earlier in the day, speaking to a boisterous crowd at Echo Park Lake, Emhoff said of Bass, “She doesn’t do it for fame. She does it for us and our city that we all love. It will bring our city together.”

On Sunday, each candidate took their bus to the politically central San Fernando Valley.

With a population of 1.46 million – 38% of the city’s population – finding supporters in this region will be crucial to the success of both candidates. Recent polls by The Times showed Caruso is up 9 percentage points in the Valley despite falling 4 percentage points among likely voters citywide.

A mixed crowd bustled on a front lawn in Valley Glen, preparing to promote Bass.

“She’s the only real Democrat in the running,” Michael Menjivar, president of the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, explained why he spent weekends promoting Bass in the Valley. “She has over 30 years of experience working at all levels of government and is the more qualified candidate.”

That area of ​​the valley, where promotions would be held on Sunday, was “a little harder” for Bass, Menjivar said.

“I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of Caruso signs and a lot of undecided people here,” added the North Hollywood resident.

Still, he remained “cautiously optimistic” about Bass’ chances in the Valley. The crowd on the front lawn had grown to about 80 supporters when Bass’s Starline Tours double-decker bus pulled into the residential street in dizzying excitement.

At a cavernous Mexican restaurant in a Sylmar mall, brunch patrons — almost all of whom had just been presented with Rick Caruso for Mayor hats — strained for a better view of the candidate.

“I lean more towards him,” Faviola Garcia said as she and her parents watched a sweater-clad Caruso pose for selfies in the room. But the Garcias, who have voting rights in Pacoima, have yet to make their final decision.

Two people with Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso and a dog

Michaela Budd, left, and Stephanie Solis offer a prayer for LA mayoral candidate Rick Caruso in Venice last week.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

For Caruso, Sunday buffet-style brunch with bottomless mimosas was also a battleground. The predominantly Hispanic clientele at Casa Torres hails mostly from the Northeast Valley — an area whose residents could have a say in the outcome of the mayoral election.

The Garcias, like many other patrons, said they planned to vote in person on Tuesday.

Even the five-piece mariachi band appeared to have been handed hats, which they placed in instrument cases and on music stands as they returned to the makeshift stage.

“I just want to say hello,” Caruso told the musicians while shaking hands and thanking them.

Standing between the guitarrón player and a jar labeled “Mariachi Tips,” Caruso pulled out his wallet and tossed a crisp $100 bill into the jar as the band began playing.

Over the weekend, some of the city’s most famous residents also virtually searched social media for their favorite candidates.

Some of Caruso’s last-minute Hollywood endorsements – including actors Chris Pratt and Jessica Alba, via Instagram posts – sparked fury from Bass supporters online, who also resurfaced Caruso’s area code pick of embattled billionaire Elon Musk. Bass supporters also frequently targeted Caruso’s postings on Twitter in the final days of the race.

Endorsing high-profile celebrities was a prominent and occasionally controversial strategy for the Caruso campaign in the run-up to the primary, though the tactic was less visible ahead of the general election.

Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos — an early and vocal supporter of Caruso — has made waves in Hollywood with an open letter about his support for Caruso published as a full-page advertisement on the Hollywood Reporter’s website. Meanwhile, Bass supporters like Woodard were out and about across the city, and stars like Rosario Dawson, Mark Hamill and Kumail Nanjiani took to social media to show their support.

“This city is at a turning point,” wrote Sarandros in his letter. “This election is the most important to remember.”

Times contributors James Rainey and Dakota Smith contributed to this report. Bass and Caruso in a final, frenzied sprint

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