As progressive as Los Angeles presents itself to be, discussions around issues like climate change and racial justice are being pushed back by more visceral concerns to the electorate: homelessness, crime, and public safety.  

Twelve mayoral candidates qualified to appear on the ballot during the June 7 top-two primary in Los Angeles. The candidates are as follows: Representative Karen Bass, City Councilman Joe Buscaino, billionaire developer Rick Caruso, City Councilman Kevin De Leon, City Attorney Mike Feuer, business executive Craig Greiwe, neighborhood councilman Alex Smith, business owner John Jackson, lawyer Andrew Kim, businessman, Ramit Varma, community organizer Gina Viola, and real estate agent Mel Wilson.

Loading the player...

The top two choices among voters will square off in a general election on November 8. 

The next debate, and one of the last major spaces for candidates to promote themselves, will be held at Cal State L.A. on May 1. Four candidates not invited to state their case in previous debates made their frustrations clear through a press conference on April 12, calling their lack of inclusion an act of voter suppression.

Among the four in attendance was Craig Greiwe, whose formative experience exerting himself out of poverty ignited his passion to solve the homelessness crisis as mayor. Taking part in the debate, in his opinion, will give candidates equal opportunity to hold each other publicly accountable. Whether all twelve candidates will be invited to take part has yet to be decided. 

While most candidates agree on the harsh realities at hand, the range of proposed solutions, which vary in urgency and scale, set each campaign apart. Representative Karen Bass, whose previous presence as Speaker of the California State Assembly is reaping the most endorsements out of anyone in the race, and remains a trusted choice among voters. Bass got her start as a community activist in South Los Angeles back in 1990. She founded a nonprofit called the Community Coalition that centered more of the work being done to help the Black and brown members of her community and less the celebrity aspect of the organizers themselves. This level of commitment to her work would lead her to congress where she is now viewed as publicly reserved yet effective among both her Republican and Democrat colleagues.

Also distinguishing himself in the field is Rick Caruso, who’s running mostly on media outreach funded by himself. Other top polling candidates are City Councilman Kevin De Leon, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

Caruso, whose heavy media spending is working in his favor, is running strong with the message that Los Angeles is in danger and needs a leader who won’t hesitate to fight fire with fire. This message seems to be having a strong impact among voters, many of whom have adopted the same alarmist perspective. Meanwhile, Bass, who has to simultaneously court a more progressive base, is being criticized for not taking a heavier stance against police. A decision like this is making her campaign more vulnerable to candidates like police abolitionist Gina Viola, who’s serving as an alternative for frustrated progressives.

Other topics that’ll decide the outcome of this election are housing affordability, jobs and the economy, and education. In a recent poll conducted by Loyola Marymount University, 40 percent of people are still undecided about who they’ll be voting for. Latinxs have been known to decide late on their candidates because outreach to this group tends to lag. The two frontrunners, Bass and Caruso, for example, have yet to make an impression with around 50 percent of Latinx voters. This powerful voting block makes up approximately one third of registered voters in Los Angeles. 

Recent studies show Latinxs making up 32.5 percent of the total homeless population and 50 percent of homicide victims. COVID-19 has also taken the lives of Latinxs 3 times more than white Angelinos.

With the June 7 primary fast approaching, it remains crucial for each candidate to double down and expand on their visions for the future of Los Angeles, particularly as it relates to the Latinx population.