Rick Caruso and Karen Bass

LOS ANGELES  - The expensive and at-times contentious race to become the next mayor of Los Angeles remained in a virtual 50-50 deadlock today between developer Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass -- and a winner might not be determined for days.

Results continued to come in from the Los Angeles County Registrar- Recorder/County Clerk's office, with Bass and Caruso trading leads. But neither candidate had gained separation beyond a few thousand votes.

Caruso led Bass by 12,282 votes according to totals released by the county Registrar-Recorder's office at 3:30 a.m.

In speeches at their respective election night parties, both Caruso and Bass acknowledged the race may be too close to call for awhile.

The early batch of results included only early vote-by-mail ballots cast before Election Day, and the second batch were from vote center ballots cast before Election Day. The latest poll before Election Day indicated that the race was tightening after Bass had sizable lead earlier in the campaign.

Caruso, walking out at his election night party at The Grove to the song ``Safe And Sound'' by Capital Cities, said he didn't know the outcome yet but that they were ``starting out strong.''

Caruso, in between chants of ``Rick, Rick, Rick,'' thanked his supporters for taking ``a chance on an unproven candidate who has never run for office.'' He spoke about his grandparents immigrating to Boyle Heights, where he cast his ballot on Tuesday to remind himself of his family's humble roots. Caruso said he wanted to provide the chance for everybody to achieve the American Dream.

``This election has always been about those that have been felt left behind and unheard,'' Caruso said. ``Well let me tell you, I hear you and change will happen.''

In her speech at the Los Angeles County Democratic Party's election night party at the Hollywood Palladium, Bass said it was ``going to be a long night'' and that the results might take a few days, before leading the crowd in a chant of

``We will win.''``We will win, we're going to build a new Los Angeles, and when we win, we have to begin again,'' Bass said. ``We want a City Hall that's not just a City Hall for the powerful, not just a City Hall for the wealthy -- but a City Hall that is for everyone so that we can have the quality of life that I know that we deserve.''

Bass stated that Los Angeles is ``at a crossroads,'' and that the election is a``fight for the soul of our city.''

``And I know the soul of our city is based in a set of a values that is reflected in the Democratic Party,'' Bass said.

As she finished her speech, ``Respect'' by Aretha Franklin played over the speakers.

Bass, a six-term member of Congress, is seeking to become the first woman and only the second Black person to lead Los Angeles. Caruso, a billionaire, is looking to win a campaign that's on track to spend over $100 million -- much of it from Caruso's own fortune -- to propel him into contention.

Bass held a comfortable lead in the polls just a month ago, but recent surveys ahead of Election Day show that Caruso has closed the gap considerably. Bass led Caruso 45% to 41% in a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted from Oct. 25-31 -- co-sponsored by the Los

Angeles Times -- with the gap within the margin of error. A Southern California News Group poll conducted by J. Wallin Opinion Research from Oct. 15-17 found a 3-point lead for Caruso, which was also within the margin of error.

   An earlier version of the UC Berkeley IGS Poll in early October showed Bass with a 15-point advantage among likely voters.

   Experts told City News Service that, while the electorate in Los Angeles favors Bass, the race could hinge on other factors.

``The conventional metrics tell me that Karen Bass is going to win,'' said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University. ``However, there are two things: The general discontent with the electorate, and $100 million being spent by Caruso  -- and that makes a difference, obviously.''

Whoever wins the election will inherit leadership of a city grappling with a scandal that has embroiled City Hall for the past month, after three council members and a top county labor official took part in a leaked conversation in October 2021 that included racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting.

   Both candidates have acknowledged the gravity of the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles but differed on how to approach it. The latest point-in- time homeless count released this month showed a 1.7% increase in the number of unhoused people in Los Angeles since 2020, bringing the total to 41,980.

Caruso said the premise of his plan to address homelessness would be to get people into shelters, noting his goal to build 30,000 new shelter beds in his first year in office.

``We've got to meet people where they are,'' Caruso said.

Bass said that, while getting people off the streets is important,``shelters are not the answer.''

  ``What we have done for too long is we have put people in shelters,'' Bass said. ``Now the shelters have become so dangerous, people don't even want to be in the shelters and are choosing to be outside on the street.''

Bass called for what she calls a more comprehensive approach, prioritizing services, addressing the root cause of homelessness and creating permanent housing.

Caruso said he believes shelters ultimately are a better and more efficient way to provide services to unhoused people. He said he supported clearing encampments ``at a certain point and time'' because of potential crime and impact to surrounding neighborhoods. He said encampments were ``unfair to the community.''

Bass responded that ``at the end of the day, you can't criminalize poverty.''``If you have them in jail, they'd be there for three days and then right back out on the street,'' Bass said.