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Our Guide to The Mayor’s Race: Who Won’t Release Tax Returns and Who Got Cash From Samuel L. Jackson

There are 69 trillion people running for 27 billion elected positions in Los Angeles this year. Half of them have invaded your eyes and ears with advertisements the moment you take your first breath in the morning so that we won’t take too much time with the spiel up top. 

It is worth noting that most of the candidates around the city and the county talk about using political power to house people, protect renters, build more affordable housing, and make the police and the sheriff’s department accountable for their actions. These are all political positions that would seem too radical even a couple of years ago. It’s almost like the constant push of a broad array of local activist groups over the past couple of years has been working to pressure local politicians to use their political power for something besides getting kickbacks from real estate developers. 

Here’s a rundown of the people who want you to vote for them.

Garcetti is (Still maybe. Possibly.) going to be Biden’s ambassador to India, so somebody’s got to be mayor of L.A. in his place. 

This is a primary election, so if one of the candidates wins more than 50% of the vote, they win the election. Still, if nobody wins more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates who got the most votes will have to face each other again in the general election on November 8.   

Photo via L.A. TACO archives.
Photo via L.A. TACO archives.
Photo via L.A. TACO archives.

Karen Bass

Karen Bass is the current congresswoman for Inglewood and parts of Mid City, Mar Vista, West Adams, Baldwin Hills, and other west and southwest L.A. neighborhoods, where she’s taken a position as kind of a staunch moderate, left of center politician who likes to call herself a progressive if that makes sense. Bass came up as a physician’s assistant and activist in South-Central and then a state legislature. Recently her most significant initiative in congress was introducing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would have created a national police misconduct database, a ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and restricted qualified immunity laws used to shield cops who break the law from being prosecuted, but the bill didn’t pass. 

She’s said she’s running for mayor to “end all street encampments” and house 15,000 people in her first year in office by using city-owned land to build “villages” in Palmdale and other vacant and unused lands around the city. She’s also talked about the need for rental assistance for struggling renters to keep them from becoming unhoused. 

Just a reminder, conservative estimates by the city say that there were more than 41,000 unhoused people in L.A. in 2020, before the pandemic. What happens to those tens of thousands of other people who don’t get housing in the first year of Bass’s plan, and encampments are “ended?” She doesn’t say other than that there should be neighborhood service teams” from the city that offer shelter space when it’s available. 

Bass has positioned herself as a progressive in this race, as we said up top. Still, many of her stances have angered local progressive and activist groups, especially when you look at her promises to hire more LAPD officers. However, she specifies that she wants the department to focus on specifically solving homicide cases and tracking guns. She also wants to end oil drilling in the city and expand public parks. 

Fun donor facts: Samuel L. Jackson, Miles Robinson, the former drummer for The 5th Dimension (who is an MF Doom fan), Sue Dunlap, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, and Cal State L.A. professor and Black Lives Matter L.A.’s co-founder Melina Abdullah have all donated to Bass’ campaign.   

Photo via Rick Caruso's campaign website.
Photo via Rick Caruso's campaign website.
Photo via Rick Caruso's campaign website.

Rick Caruso

Rick Caruso is a billionaire real estate developer (he lives in Brentwood but also has two multimillion-dollar mansions in Newport Beach) who’s never been elected to any political position before (he was appointed commissioner for the Department of Water in the ’80s and again appointed in the early 2000s onto the Los Angels Board of Police Commissioner though), spent a lot of money on funding propositions to build property near-critical habitats, donating to anti-abortion politicians (although now he says he’s pro-choice), and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on funding local politicians to approve his real estate projects, who are flooding your ears and eyes with insistent advertising saying that he’s the only person who can fix our problems. 

Oh, and he still won’t release his tax returns, does that sound familiar? 

Caruso said he got into the mayoral race because of the homelessness crisis and crime. He also wants to hire 1,500 more cops and return to what he describes as Bill Bratton-style community policing. Bratton was one of the architects of broken windows theory policing, where low-level crimes like drinking in public, graffiti, and loitering were heavily policed. Bratton was also one of the architects of stop-and-frisk policing in New York City, where cops mainly stopped young Black and Latino people on the street and searched them for weapons or drugs with little need for a reason other than “suspicion.” 

In 2013 a federal judge in New York found the New York Police Department’s use of the tactic targeted Black and Latinos with unreasonable searches and seizures and violated the fourth and 14th amendments, something that seems to be already going on in L.A. with the Sheriff's Department’s policy of stopping and searching bicyclists. Anyways, Caruso also talks about implementing more “precision policing” strategies, which sounds like predictive policing software and gang databases that target Black and Latino communities with the same sort of racial profiling that comes with stop and frisk policing. Caruso also talks about forcing the City Attorney to prosecute misdemeanors, hinting at his efforts to recall progressive District Attorney George Gascon. Caruso also promises to build 30,000 shelter beds in his first 300 days in office by purchasing land and leasing it to developers to build housing and shelters throughout the city because private corporations love building shelters. Maybe there will be one in Brentwood, too, right?

Fun donor facts: The CEO of Erewhon, Tony Antoci, has donated to Caruso’s campaign. Snoop Dogg gave his endorsement to him as well.  

Photo via Craig Greiwe's campaign website.
Photo via Craig Greiwe's campaign website.
Photo via Craig Greiwe's campaign website.

Craig Greiwe

Craig Greiwe works as the chief strategy officer at the marketing firm Rogers & Cowan PMK. He seems to be running as kind of the Silicon Valley technocrat candidate. His main things are to break up LA Unified School District into seven smaller districts “and bring it under mayoral control,” end the eviction moratorium, and establish some type of direct assistance to renters and landlords. He also wants to recall Gascon, and he’s cool with enforcing the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which harasses and displaces unhoused people.

Fun donor facts: Greiwe’s campaign has pumped in $45,000 to his campaign already. You have to believe in yourself, kids.  

Photo via Alex Gruenenfelder.
Photo via Alex Gruenenfelder's campaign website.

Alex Gruenenfelder

The youngest candidate in the mayor’s race, Gruenenfelder, is an Echo Park Neighborhood Council council member. His campaign ideas include everything from imposing a vacancy tax on landlords of vacant properties to get people housed in them, ending oil and gas drilling in the city, and building more shade structures for bus stops. He also wants to demilitarize the LAPD. In an interview with The Eastsider, Gruenenfelder talked about his family being politically engaged, including his parents, who hosted fundraisers for Barack Obama, and his grandma, Nana, who was arrested at a protest against the Iraq war. Nana seems cool. 

Fun donor facts: Gruenenfelder’s mom, author Kim Smith Gruenenfelder, donated to her son’s campaign, as did Konstantine Anthony, the vice mayor of Burbank. 

Photo via L.A. TACO archives.
Photo via L.A. TACO archives.

Kevin de León

Kevin de León is also a longtime figure in L.A. politics. He’s the current City Councilmember for District 14, including Boyle Heights, downtown, Highland Park, El Sereno, and other eastside communities. Before that, de León was in the state legislature for years, where he helped pass a couple of laws, mainly to do with green and renewable energy funding and rebates for lower and middle-income people to buy electric cars, and not signing on to whistleblower protection bills, not a great look if you took over for Jose Huizar’s City Council seat

He introduced and passed a proposal to create 25,000 new affordable housing units on the City Council by 2025. Still, he’s also been a fan of using the city’s anti-camping ordinance to sweep and harass unhoused people in his district. His big idea for his campaign for mayor is that he wants to speed up the process of building housing and shelters again. He also wants the city to create its own mental and public health departments and staff each LAPD station with 12 mental health caseworkers to work with unhoused people. 

In an interview with KCRW, de León said his favorite bands are Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, U2, and Los Tigres Del Norte.

Fun donor facts: Nothing really stands out looking through his campaign finance reports, but he does have a lot of real estate developers giving him money, and so does everybody else. 

Photo via Gina Viola's campaign.
Photo via Gina Viola's campaign website.

Gina Viola

Gina Viola is an activist and a staffer for trade shows. She doesn’t claim to have any political experience. Still, she seems to be well connected with various activist groups around the city, and she’s running as the progressive in the race aligned with a lot of their policies. Viola says she wants to downsize the LAPD and fire Chief Michael Moore and redistribute their budget to social programs, like Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal-style programs on the local level and other racial and economic justice programs including housing everybody in the city within her first year in office. She also wants to raise the minimum wage to $39.03 an hour, ban fracking and drilling in the city, and subsidize people’s air conditioner usage. Can these things be done? I don’t know. Weirder things have happened, I guess. 

Fun donor facts: Cal State L.A. professor and Black Lives Matter L.A.’s co-founder Melina Abdullah and Zachary Sherwin, the Crossword Show host, have donated to Viola’s campaign. 

Photo via Mel Wilson's campaign.
Photo via Mel Wilson's campaign.
Photo via Mel Wilson's campaign.

Mel Wilson

Mel Wilson is a realtor and former member of the Metro board, the L.A. Fire Commission, and the Business Tax Advisory Commission. Some of Wilson’s ideas are all over the place, but he’s running to the right of every other candidate. Along with wanting more cops, he wants the private sector to take the lead on building more housing for people struggling, with the city leasing property from developers after they’ve been built. He’s also not a fan of laws restricting landlords from hiking up rents on people, which sounds like a good way for many people in real estate to make even more money. 

Fun donor facts: Scott Baio gave Wilson’s campaign some money.

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