While the fate of Congress hangs on a handful of midterm races in a few swing states, Washington is quietly obsessing over a mayoral race in California between two Democrats—Congressional Black Caucus poobah Karen Bass and a real estate developer billionaire, Rick Caruso. Bass has received endorsements from Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama—many have even come out to L.A. to campaign for her. It’s all a little mysterious: Obama, after all, was a friend of current Mayor Eric Garcetti but didn’t endorse him. Now he’s all in for Bass. The only two Democrats who have sat on the sidelines are Gavin Newsom and Garcetti, himself.
With the election less than 24 hours away, Puck’s Tara Palmeri and Peter Hamby exchanged notes on the peculiar contours of the race, the West Wing’s secret motives, the “crime and dysfunction” narrative, and whether Caruso can actually win. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Tara Palmeri: Peter, you’ve been covering this race extensively. In fact, I’m going to recommend that our readers reread your piece from June right before the California primary because it’s just that good. Can you give me an update on the state of the race and what all of this last-minute campaigning for Bass means? And you live in L.A., what is the state of the city like?