Contact Us

As Field Of LA Mayoral Candidates Thins, Rick Caruso Is Spending Big, Seeing Results

Los Angeles' mayoral primary is coming up this summer.

Real estate developer and billionaire Rick Caruso is polling as one of the two top candidates to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, and he could foreseeably win that title even earlier than expected. 

If a candidate captures more than 50% of the vote in the primary, which is June 7, that person is elected mayor outright. Caruso’s popularity, amplified by his big campaign spending, could put him in that position.

One of the first to bring up the possibility was comedian and progressive Adam Conover, who wrote a viral Twitter thread about Caruso possibly winning a majority of the votes in the primary, negating a runoff election. 

Caruso's platform focuses on responses to homelessness, crime and public safety in the city, and corruption in city government. He has secured high-profile endorsements from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, rapper Snoop Dogg and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, but it is his campaign spending, which can often translate into name recognition in the voting booth, that plays a critical role in the possibility of his taking the race in one fell swoop, campaign-watchers say. 

Caruso has spent $23.8M on his campaign to become LA’s next mayor, far outspending his competitors, according to numbers from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission website. Caruso’s campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“It’s Caruso’s race to lose,” political consultant Dermot Givens told the Los Angeles Times. “Everyone in the city knows Caruso. Unfortunately, the voters are voting on name ID.”

Caruso’s largest payments in the last month were to strategists and consulting firms, including Studio City-based Sadler Strategic Media, Chicago-based Aisle 518 Strategies and Brooklyn-based Red Horse Strategies.

Nearly all the money the developer of The Grove and Americana at Brand has spent has been his own. Campaign filings on the city’s ethics site show that Caruso has loaned his campaign $22.5M as of late April. With less than three weeks before the June 7 primary, it is unclear whether there will be a late surge in spending from Caruso’s camp. 

The next-highest spender in the campaign is Ramit Varma, a tech entrepreneur who has dropped $1.2M on his mayoral bid. As of a March poll, just 2% of those polled planned to vote for Varma.

Karen Bass, considered Caruso’s hottest competition in polls to date, has spent $1.17M on the race as of late April, the city website showed. She is polling neck and neck with Caruso. Council Member Kevin De León spent about $673K. Polling showed De León in third place behind Bass and Caruso.

The field of candidates is thinning. City Attorney Mike Feuer left the race Tuesday, endorsing Bass. Council Member Joe Buscaino dropped out of the race last week, endorsing Caruso

“We want the same thing for our city,” Buscaino said. “We want a city that is clean. We want a city that is safe. We want a city that leads with compassion and brings forth innovative solutions to the homelessness crisis. And Rick will do that.”

A March Loyola Marymount University poll found that as many as 42% of voters were undecided. A poll released last week by Bass’ campaign showed at least a quarter of voters remain undecided, the Los Angeles Times reported.