(CN) — When Politico revealed on Monday night that it had obtained a draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, some Democrats were immediately hopeful that the issue would galvanize their voters later this year.
But the next morning, mayoral candidate Karen Bass was not one of them.
"We’re very fortunate, in Los Angeles and California, that this ruling will not be an issue, because women will have the right to choose," she said at a press conference, alongside U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn and other black leaders in South LA.
A Los Angeles Times reporter all but begged Bass to take a pop at her opponent, Rick Caruso, a former Republican who has donated to campaigns of numerous pro-life Republicans and who, according to a Los Angeles Magazine article, "oppose[d] abortion in most cases" back in 2007. But Bass wouldn't bite.
"Obviously, I think I’m the one who should be in office," she said. "But I think this is a Democratic city. As I understand it, Mr. Caruso, most of his life, has been a Republican. And the voters will decide."
The June 7 open primary election is just about a month away, though in a way it starts this weekend when ballots begin to arrive in voters' mailboxes. This is the first mayoral election in which every voter will have the option of voting by mail. It's also the first to be held concurrently with state and federal elections. Those changes were implemented in order to boost turnout, which had sunk to a dismal 20% when the city ran elections in odd-numbered years.
Congresswoman Bass has been considered a front-runner to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is barred from running for a third term and who may or may not be heading to India to serve as ambassador. The longtime lawmaker has strong support in both the African American and the Jewish communities, and has been endorsed by a bevy of Democratic politicians, including former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Senator Barbara Boxer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and three city council members.
But Bass has never won a truly competitive election and her campaign appears to be lacking a certain spark that Villaraigosa's had. Her positions have been sensible, middle-of-road. She wants to hire police officers, but not too many (that stance earned her a rebuke from Black Lives Matter LA co-founder Melina Abdullah). She wants to clean up homeless encampments, but not by using police officers. She wants to build more shelters, but so does everyone. She has promised to govern by consensus and coalition-building, which may be effective, but it's hardly an inspiring message.
"I’ve been surprised to see how much she struggled to get up to speed on LA City issues," said Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a group that advocates transparency and publicly funded elections. "I was surprised at how much she would talk about Sacramento and the federal government."
And then there's Caruso, the billionaire mall magnate, who's spent $22 million of his own money on the race so far, a staggering amount considering there's still a month to go, and then a possible runoff election in November (assuming no candidate wins the primary outright with 50% of the vote, and if Caruso finishes first or second). That money has allowed him to unleash a torrent of advertisements upon the city on television, radio, in newspapers and perhaps most prominently on YouTube.
And so Caruso has surged to the top of the polls. A survey taken last month by the LA Times put Caruso in first place with 24% of the vote, effectively tied with Bass, who had 23%. All other candidates polled in the single digits, including Councilman Kevin de Leon, the only major Latino candidate, with 6%; City Attorney Mike Feuer and left-wing activist Gina Viola with 2% each; and Councilman Joe Buscaino with 1%.