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Black Men Just Gave Democrats a Reality Check on Crime in LA’s Mayoral Primary

Rick Caruso, a former Republican billionaire who has vowed to get tough on crime, finished first in Tuesday’s open primary for Los Angeles mayor — thanks in part to the unexpected support of black men.

SO WHAT

Democrats can’t seem to accept that crime and quality of life issues transcend race.

WHAT HAPPENED

Caruso, who became a Democrat just before launching his campaign, bested Karen Bass, a veteran Democratic congresswoman and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, by five percentage points.

The race now heads to a November runoff. 

  • Caruso, a luxury mall developer, was bolstered by endorsements from celebrities including rapper Snoop Dogg and music mogul-turned-philanthropist Clarence Avant.
  • More than half of black men appeared to prefer Caruso to Bass, according to a pre-election poll of registered voters by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies for the Los Angeles Times, though the sample sizes weren’t big enough to draw definitive conclusions about intra-racial gender dynamics.
  • Caruso outperformed Bass among all men by eight points, per the poll, and seemed to have an advantage among Latinos; she did significantly better than him with women.

WHAT IT MEANS

Progressive politicos have struggled to make sense of Caruso’s appeal to black and Latino men.

  • “It’s somewhat surprising — and as a Black woman, more than a little mystifying — given the years Bass spent working in the Black and Latino neighborhoods of South L.A. and serving as one of the two Black members of the city’s congressional delegation,” Times columnist Erika Smith wrote Monday.
  • Garry South, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist, told The New York Times Wednesday: “People are not in a good mood, and they have reason not to be in a good mood. It’s not just the crime issue. It’s the homelessness. It’s the high price of gasoline.”

OK, BUT: Shootings and murders in Los Angeles reached a 15-year high amid a nationwide spike in 2021, and they have continued to rise this year.

  • Caruso has pledged to hire 1,500 more police officers and clear homeless encampments, among other law-and-order policies.
  • He has taken pains to distinguish himself from the liberal wing of the party, saying in February: “I will be a pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat.”

Los Angeles has hardly been the first liberal U.S. city where public backlash to crime has forced a Democratic reckoning.

According to an April Pew Research Center poll, 17% of black Americans said the top issue facing their community was crime, followed by the economy (11%) and housing (7%), with racism trailing at just 3%.

  • In a February 2022 survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, black respondents said they wanted national politicians to prioritize the economy, health care and cost of living.
  • Asked how they identify politically, in the same survey 30% of blacks described themselves as moderate and 19% conservative, compared to 22% liberal and 15% progressive.

Meanwhile, the proportion of black Americans who said President Biden is sympathetic to black concerns fell from 74% in 2020 to 66% this year, per a recent poll by The Washington Post and Ipsos.

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