LOS ANGELES AREA PROGRESSIVE VOTER GUIDE
November 8, 2022 General Election
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Guía de votación en español para Los Ángeles: tinyurl.com/lavotacion
This guide was prepared by Kris Rehl. If you’d like to buy me a coffee, my Venmo is krisrehl. Please share this guide on social media/with friends and family: tinyurl.com/laballotguide
Below are recommendations for the most progressive options on the ballot based on resources linked to throughout this guide, news coverage, and statements from every candidate. I encourage you to do your own research—just be mindful of bias from corporate media, that many organizations have transactional relationships with candidates they endorse, and that many candidates who claim to be “progressive” or “compassionate” are in fact not. (Surprise! Politicians lie.) The resources section at the bottom of this guide includes a glossary, election information, and finance/voting records. If you/someone you know isn’t registered to vote, you can register online right now!
After writing the date/your address on and signing your envelope, return your completed ballot via USPS or dropbox then track it. If you vote in person, bring your mail-in ballot with you.
A note on paywalls: If you’re blocked from viewing a website, google “12 foot ladder.”
A note on endorsements: Most voter guides from news outlets are researched and written by “editorial teams,” a misleading term for a group that does not include their regular staff of reporters. Almost every political organization bases endorsements on one questionnaire and/or interview, which are typically not shared publicly. This includes leftist groups that lack transparency in their endorsement process even if they otherwise do good work. Pre-existing relationships frequently play a larger role in the endorsement process than policy or track record (e.g., Planned Parenthood endorsed alleged sexual assaulter David Ryu over Time’s Up alum Nithya Raman in 2020). Even with otherwise trustworthy groups, there’s almost never disclosure about conflicts of interest (e.g., voting members who also work on a candidate’s campaign) or examination of finances (e.g., candidates donating to the organization that’s voting on their endorsement). And according to those racist tapes, many political orgs can be bought off by politicians—and for cheap. You should always exercise skepticism when anyone tells you who to vote for without showing their work.
*Indicates a Democrat running solely against a Republican opponent.
Note: There are two Senate races on the ballot, which are confusingly for the same seat—sort of. In 2017, Kamala Harris started serving a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. When she became VP, our governor appointed Alex Padilla to take her seat until the next election (now). The first race on the ballot determines who will fill the Harris/Padilla seat for the very brief remainder of the original six-year term (until January 3, 2023). The second race determines our Senator for the next six-year term (2023–29).
U.S. Senate (short/unexpired term): Alex Padilla* - In January 2021, Governor Newsom appointed Padilla to fill the senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris after she was sworn in as VP, making him the first Latino to represent our Latino-plurality state in the Senate. He also won a special election for this same seat in the primary election earlier this year. Previously, Padilla held office as LA City Councilmember, State Senator, and California Secretary of State. While it’s not great that the governor basically anointed political ally Padilla with this seat long-term (our supposedly progressive/leftist state really ought to have a more bona fide progressive/leftist Senator representing us), Padilla does support universal healthcare, increasing renewable energy standards, ending the filibuster, and has expanded California voter access with automatic and same-day registration. His Republican opponent is your run of the mill “stop woke progressives,” “don’t defund the police,” and “our children are being indoctrinated” type.
U.S. Senate (full term): Alex Padilla* - See above.
LA CITY MAYOR
Mayor: Karen Bass - Would a Mayor Bass improve the lives of people in this city? No. Would a Mayor Caruso make people’s lives significantly worse than a Mayor Bass? Almost certainly.
A six-term congresswoman, Bass represents California’s 37th District and previously served in the California Assembly, where she became the first Black woman Speaker of any state legislature in the U.S. If elected, she would also be the first Black woman to become mayor of Los Angeles. Before taking office, she was a social worker, an organizer with leftists roots, and founded Community Coalition, an organization working to transform the social and economic conditions in South LA. Given these credentials, it’s disappointing how much of her policy overlaps with Caruso’s. However, it’s unsurprising when you consider both campaigns are funded by billionaires. Jeffrey Katzenberg spent “months aggressively recruiting” Bass and made enormous donations to her campaign, while Caruso dumped an estimated $69M into his own (roughly equal to the total campaign budgets of every other mayoral candidate since the new millennium combined). Both of these scenarios are deeply troubling (and illustrate the need for publicly funded elections), but the idea of someone buying the mayoral race for himself is especially concerning. Extremely wealthy people spending their money and exerting influence to elevate themselves to powerful political office will always be bad for everyone else. There can’t be accountability for politicians whose money shields them from consequences. We have a word for people who manage this: oligarch.
Caruso a.k.a. Mr. Grove (no really, the return address on his campaign mailers is just “The Grove”) is a billionaire and conservative who only registered as a Democrat in January, weeks before announcing his mayoral run. His campaign has attracted and paid far-right extremists who were involved in violent anti-vaccine and anti-abortion demonstrations. Prior to running, he stated he “opposes abortion in most cases” and has donated millions to anti-choice candidates. During the primary, Caruso paid $25k to LA Magazine to publish a “story” written by his campaign and flooded the internet with targeted ads. An open letter from student group The Trojan Democrats alleges that Caruso helped cover up sexual violence, and that’s not the only scandal he swept under the rug while serving as USC’s Chairman of the Board. His leadership approach would be disastrous for LA.
Caruso and Bass have largely focused on the same key issues (at least when Caruso is taking a break from trying to convince people he’s “Latin”). Both tend to state lofty goals and provide a lot of information about a problem without providing clear plans to solve it or offer a proposal that fails to address the problem they’ve identified. The campaign trail frequently turns into a pissing contest between the two to see who can be the most centrist (or sometimes who will make rich reactionaries the happiest), which has moved some of Bass’s positions to the right and soured progressives’ excitement for her.
I’ll cover their homelessness policies first because the unhoused will be more greatly impacted by this race than any other group. Both candidates propose appointing a homelessness czar, declaring a state of emergency, and demanding federal dollars to create more housing. (Unfortunately, the city recently returned $150M to the federal government that was meant for housing the unhoused. Our local government is deeply, deeply fucked.) One specific Bass offers is her intent to house 15,000 people by the end of her first year in office, which on its face sounds great even if it only accounts for about a quarter of our city’s unhoused population. But realistically, such an aggressive goal would mean placing most of those people in temporary shelter with no path to actual housing. (Caruso suggests housing 30,000 people in his first 300 days, which would also be great—but both of these are entirely made up figures with no substance behind them!) Caruso makes vague promises about cutting red tape and eliminating “damaging legal settlements” for developers, which sounds more like eliminating accountability for the corrupt real estate industry than anything.
Most of Bass’s messaging prioritizes removing visible homelessness rather than presenting a plan for permanent supportive housing—the only true solution to the homelessness crisis. Caruso’s headline on this issue is “end street homelessness.” Bass has enough familiarity with the failures of our system to identify some of the problems: city-county communication breakdown, lack of direction, doing more with the money we have allocated for housing, and a severe lack of affordable housing. However, only the latter gets to the core of the crisis. The larger problems with city-county services are lack of resources, lack of housing, a system that is impossible to navigate for unhoused people, and the way caseworkers are set up to conduct outreach. (Even if a unit becomes available, good luck tracking down someone who is too poor to own a phone, is regularly displaced by the city, or harassed and chased off the block by housed neighbors.) Instead of addressing these foundational problems, both campaigns narrow in on ineffective and harmful strategies like privatization and criminalization.
Given her background in social work, Bass appears to have a humanizing familiarity with the demographics of our city’s unhoused po