Busting Crime Takes Center Stage in Los Angeles Mayor’s Race

Commentary As I pointed out last year in The Epoch Times, crime is going to be the big issue of 2022, especially for local elections. Inflation and the war in Ukraine have arisen since then, but largely are federal issues, except when such things such as state gas taxes enter the picture. A good example is Los Angeles’ race for mayor to replace Eric Garcetti. During his last two years in office crime has soared, along with a related rise in homelessness. In 2021, homicides rose by 12 percent, to 397, the highest since 2006. Garcetti is awaiting Senate confirmation as ambassador to India at a time of international tension—when a real diplomat should have been appointed. All of the major mayoral candidates, including the liberals, are pushing a crime-busting agenda, albeit with different platforms. All are Democrats. Although officially a non-partisan office, party affiliation still plays a role. The last Republican was Richard Riordan, who left office in 2001. A major poll was from U.C. Berkeley on Feb. 3-10. Rep. Karen Bass held a commanding lead at 32 percent. She was followed by Councilman Kevin de Leon and billionaire developer Rick Caruso at 8 percent each. Following were Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and former LAPD officer and Councilman Joe Buscaino at 4 percent each. However, a more recent poll from Loyola Marymount University released on March 2 pegged Bass at 16 percent, de León at 12 percent, and Buscaino at 8 percent. Feuer was at 7 percent and Caruso 6 percent. Here’s the lineup. Karen Bass “People around the city do not feel safe,” she said. “There is a feeling of fear in the city. It’s very reminiscent to me of where the city was in the ’80s and the ’90s.” That was the time of the crack cocaine epidemic, which led to major crackdowns on crime, in particular Proposition 184 from 1994, the “three strikes” law. It has been reformed since then, as with Proposition 36 in 2012. She added, “It has just exploded into what I feel is a public health and a public safety emergency.” She says she’s working with the Biden administration to get more funding for police. In 2020, she drafted the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate. It would have restricted the use of certain policing practices and was opposed by law enforcement groups. The conservative Heritage Foundation criticized the 2021 version of the bill because, “A law enforcement officer who had to make a split-second decision can no longer raise that defense when accused of violating someone’s rights. Other provisions of the bill could potentially encourage frivolous lawsuits against police officers and departments, given the broad scope of activities covered.” The Floyd Act’s problems won’t hurt her in the primary. But in the Top Two runoff in November, it could come back to haunt her. Clearly the Democratic Party Establishment’s candidate, she has been endorsed by numerous unions, including the powerful California Nurses Association, Communication Workers of America Southern California Council, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West. And she’s supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff, Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President Toni Atkins, and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Kevin de León He was the president pro tem of the California Senate for most of the time I was press secretary to Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). De León was capable at running the Senate and getting the Democratic agenda passed. That meant maneuvering with and around the numerous Democratic interest groups: unions, billionaires, construction companies, environmentalists, etc. He also was reasonable with the minority Republicans, albeit not letting them advance many bills. He is well versed in the homelessness crisis and worked with Moorlach to pass Proposition 2 in 2018. It dedicated $2 billion for housing for the mentally ill homeless. No taxes were raised because the money was taken from existing sources. De León in 2018 ran against Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Because of California’s awful Top Two system, both advanced to the November runoffs, as no Republicans made the cut. That year the California Democratic Party endorsed him at their convention. Even though she outspent him $20 million to $2 million, she won only with a tepid 54 percent to his 46 percent. It’s going to be tough for him to get the financial support he needs. But he is well known and, if he finishes second in the June primary, that qualifies for the November final. Rick Caruso The billionaire real estate developer hopes to be the latest wealthy person to advance in California politics, following L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger. But he doesn’t want to end up like billionaire Meg Whitman, who blew $144 million of her own dough in her losing 2010 campaign for governor against Jerry Brown. Caruso was a Republican un

Busting Crime Takes Center Stage in Los Angeles Mayor’s Race

Commentary

As I pointed out last year in The Epoch Times, crime is going to be the big issue of 2022, especially for local elections. Inflation and the war in Ukraine have arisen since then, but largely are federal issues, except when such things such as state gas taxes enter the picture.

A good example is Los Angeles’ race for mayor to replace Eric Garcetti. During his last two years in office crime has soared, along with a related rise in homelessness. In 2021, homicides rose by 12 percent, to 397, the highest since 2006. Garcetti is awaiting Senate confirmation as ambassador to India at a time of international tension—when a real diplomat should have been appointed.

All of the major mayoral candidates, including the liberals, are pushing a crime-busting agenda, albeit with different platforms. All are Democrats.

Although officially a non-partisan office, party affiliation still plays a role. The last Republican was Richard Riordan, who left office in 2001.

A major poll was from U.C. Berkeley on Feb. 3-10. Rep. Karen Bass held a commanding lead at 32 percent.

She was followed by Councilman Kevin de Leon and billionaire developer Rick Caruso at 8 percent each. Following were Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and former LAPD officer and Councilman Joe Buscaino at 4 percent each.

However, a more recent poll from Loyola Marymount University released on March 2 pegged Bass at 16 percent, de León at 12 percent, and Buscaino at 8 percent. Feuer was at 7 percent and Caruso 6 percent.

Here’s the lineup.

Karen Bass

“People around the city do not feel safe,” she said. “There is a feeling of fear in the city. It’s very reminiscent to me of where the city was in the ’80s and the ’90s.”

That was the time of the crack cocaine epidemic, which led to major crackdowns on crime, in particular Proposition 184 from 1994, the “three strikes” law. It has been reformed since then, as with Proposition 36 in 2012.

She added, “It has just exploded into what I feel is a public health and a public safety emergency.” She says she’s working with the Biden administration to get more funding for police.

In 2020, she drafted the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate. It would have restricted the use of certain policing practices and was opposed by law enforcement groups.

The conservative Heritage Foundation criticized the 2021 version of the bill because, “A law enforcement officer who had to make a split-second decision can no longer raise that defense when accused of violating someone’s rights. Other provisions of the bill could potentially encourage frivolous lawsuits against police officers and departments, given the broad scope of activities covered.”

The Floyd Act’s problems won’t hurt her in the primary. But in the Top Two runoff in November, it could come back to haunt her.

Clearly the Democratic Party Establishment’s candidate, she has been endorsed by numerous unions, including the powerful California Nurses Association, Communication Workers of America Southern California Council, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West.

And she’s supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff, Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President Toni Atkins, and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Kevin de León

He was the president pro tem of the California Senate for most of the time I was press secretary to Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). De León was capable at running the Senate and getting the Democratic agenda passed. That meant maneuvering with and around the numerous Democratic interest groups: unions, billionaires, construction companies, environmentalists, etc. He also was reasonable with the minority Republicans, albeit not letting them advance many bills.

He is well versed in the homelessness crisis and worked with Moorlach to pass Proposition 2 in 2018. It dedicated $2 billion for housing for the mentally ill homeless. No taxes were raised because the money was taken from existing sources.

De León in 2018 ran against Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Because of California’s awful Top Two system, both advanced to the November runoffs, as no Republicans made the cut. That year the California Democratic Party endorsed him at their convention. Even though she outspent him $20 million to $2 million, she won only with a tepid 54 percent to his 46 percent.

It’s going to be tough for him to get the financial support he needs. But he is well known and, if he finishes second in the June primary, that qualifies for the November final.

Rick Caruso

The billionaire real estate developer hopes to be the latest wealthy person to advance in California politics, following L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger. But he doesn’t want to end up like billionaire Meg Whitman, who blew $144 million of her own dough in her losing 2010 campaign for governor against Jerry Brown.

Caruso was a Republican until 2011, then an independent until 2022. This year he became a Democrat, saying, “I won’t be a typical Democrat, that’s for sure. I will be a pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat.” That is, he’ll be a Republican-type Democrat. Even though the post officially is non-partisan.

According to a New York Times profile, “He has enlisted help from some of the state’s top Democratic political strategists, including the consultants who led Gov. Gavin Newsom’s successful campaign to keep his job last year in a contentious recall election.”

He has been a commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners. Not surprisingly, his website emphasizes he “reformed the LAPD and oversaw a 30 percent reduction in crime … and cleaned up the messes at USC,” his alma mater, where he’s been chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Today he’s running for mayor of LA to put an end to street homelessness, make our communities safer and clean up corruption.”

Joe Buscaino

As a former cop, he’s running on themes similar to Caruso’s of fighting crime. The Times compared him to New York Mayor Eric Adams, who campaigned on both cracking down on crime and reforming the police.

After the George Floyd riots in 2020 and the national “defund the police” movement, in a 12-2 vote Buscaino was one of two city councilmen who opposed cutting the LAPD’s budget by $150 million. He branded it “a reactive, feel-good budget cut.” Last November, he called for increasing the number of LAPD officers from the current 9,700 to 11,000 by 2027, without increasing spending.

If Caruso were not in the race, Buscaino would be the top crime-busting candidate.

Mike Feuer

He’s Los Angeles’ city attorney and a former Democratic assemblyman. His TV ad features a voice over by actor Jason Alexander. It touts Feuer’s liberal record of gun control measures, especially background checks; environmentalism; consumer protection, such as a $200 million judgment against Wells Fargo; and working with Vice President Kamala Harris when she was state attorney general on the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights.

In January, he proposed an eight-point plan to end “gun violence.” Two points are “Implement additional gun buyback programs.” And, “Expand Neighborhood Cleanup and Beautification programming. A recent study from Philadelphia demonstrated that gun violence declined dramatically when sources of blight were cleaned up and beautified in high-crime neighborhoods.”

Actually, the City of Brotherly Love set a new record for murders last year with 559, surpassing the numbers even of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980. It was the highest per capita of any large American city. And 2022 is on pace to set another deadly record.

This might have been a winning campaign two years ago. Today, Feuer will grab what remains of the “soft on crime” factions in the City of Angels. Which means he won’t make the cut.

Conclusion

My guess is Bass’ strong union support will provide frontrunner status. Caruso’s ads will enjoy higher name recognition. Then the media will turn it into a two-candidate race before the primary, pushing them both onto the November ballot.

Even with the crime issue, a lot of money and his new Democratic Party Card, Caruso will be hard put to beat the powerful unions that still control politics almost everywhere in California.

A wild card could be if a recession digs in before November, allowing Caruso to emphasize his business background.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com