Bass, Caruso square off in second L.A. mayoral debate

Rep. Karen Bass and Rick Caruso will face off Thursday night for their second mayoral debate of the general election.

Hosted by KNX News, the hourlong radio debate will air on KNX News 97.1 FM and 1070 AM at 5 p.m. It will also stream on KNXNews.com and a re-broadcast will air Friday on Spectrum News.

The debate comes at a pivotal moment in the election cycle: The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk began mailing ballots to voters Thursday morning and Nov. 8 is in less than five weeks.

Bass finished 7 percentage points ahead of Caruso in the June primary. But polling conducted in late September showed Caruso substantially cutting into Bass’ lead. Among all registered voters in the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll/Times poll, Caruso was behind by just 3 percentage points, 34% to 31% — within the poll’s margin of error.

Bass maintains a strong lead among likely voters, with the poll showing her up by 15 points, 46% to 31%.

The Berkeley poll defines likely voters as those who have a history of voting in recent elections and who indicated they were highly interested in voting this fall.

Activating voters who may have sat out the primary and are less likely to cast a general election ballot is a central part of the Caruso campaign’s November strategy. The most recent set of campaign finance disclosures, which covered July 1 through Sept. 24, showed that the campaign had invested more than $9.5 million into field efforts during that period of time.

By comparison, Bass has spent a little over $6 million in total since getting into the race more than a year ago.

Caruso’s unprecedented spending in the race has largely come out of his own pocket: As of Thursday, the billionaire real estate developer has put more than $70 million of his own money into his campaign.

Bass and Caruso largely espoused mutual respect during the primary, but the tenor of campaigning has grown more hostile in recent weeks.

The candidates threw a number of rhetorical daggers during their first head-to-head debate on Sept. 21 at the Skirball Cultural Center, with several of the attacks centered on their respective relationships to scandals at USC.

A similarly bruising back and forth will likely play out Thursday night.

Caruso — a first-time contender for elected office who has positioned himself as the change candidate — typically castigates Bass as a creature of the establishment who will bring more of the same. Bass has frequently dinged Caruso for his Republican past, prior donations to antiabortion conservatives and the enormous amount of money he has poured into his campaign.

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