Billionaire developer Rick Caruso (D) spent roughly $100 million in the race for mayor of Los Angeles, yet lost to Democratic Party favorite Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), whom he vastly outspent, as late ballots were counted.
The insurgent candidate funded his own campaign, especially on ads, yet critics said throughout the race that if he really wanted to help the city, it would have been better to build housing for the homeless with his money.
Caruso is one of several moderate Democrats to learn what Republicans, by now, how found out: that when the party activists want to win an election in a big city, they are capable of turning out the ballots necessary to do it.
As in the primary, Caruso started ahead of Bass in the ballot count on Election Day. But he lost in vote-by-mail ballots — which are valid as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received within a week afterwards.
Another Democrat who learned the same lesson was State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who led the race for county supervisor until West Hollywood mayor Lindsey Horvath caught up to him and soon surpassed him.
In Hertzberg’s case, it did not matter that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had endorsed him. Horvath, who once tried to “ban” President Donald Trump from her neighborhood (a violation of the Constitution), had the party’s love.
But Hertzberg did not spend his own fortune on the way to defeat. Caruso, known for building his popular and glamorous high-end malls, pumped tens of millions into TV ads that translated into poll numbers, not votes.
Indeed, like many Republican candidates who fell short against Democrats around the country, Caruso focused on turning out voters, while the Bass campaign, drawing on loyal party activists, focused on turning out ballots.
Messaging was also a weakness. While Caruso drew support and interest by focusing on the problems of rising crime and homelessness, his plans for dealing with these issues was vague; he promised to hire the best “team.”
Bass’s message on these issues was even worse. She rarely offered any specifics at all, focusing instead on big ideological issues such as abortion. But she reminded voters that Caruso had only recently become a Democrat.
Caruso could not capitalize on a corruption scandal that tied Bass to a bribery scheme at the University of Southern California. Nor could he take advantage of outrage against racism among Democrats at City Hall.
Caruso’s support came from white residents. Bass won the black neighborhoods. They split the Latino vote — perhaps a promising sign. But the best that can be said is that for $100 million, Caruso gave voters a choice.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.