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Polls open in California’s primary election amid poor early turnout

Polls opened Tuesday across California in a June primary election that will help determine Los Angeles’ next mayor, signaling a pivotal moment in the city’s history. It’s also a test for San Francisco’s progressive prosecutor.

Voters also will cast their ballots for governor and U.S. senator, though Democrats Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Alex Padilla don’t face stiff competition and are expected to win.

Early turnout was dismal before polling sites opened Tuesday. Every registered voter in the state was mailed a ballot, but only 15% had gotten them to election officials or weighed in at early in-person vote centers by Monday evening, according to election data reviewed by the consulting firm Political Data Intelligence.

The Los Angeles mayor’s race is among the most competitive on the ballot. City voters, beset by a homelessness crisis, crime and a skyrocketing housing market, are in a pessimistic mood. The three top candidates are Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), billionaire developer Rick Caruso and L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León.

A poll published Sunday showed 38% of likely voters support Bass. Caruso, who has bombarded L.A. airwaves with millions of dollars of advertising, has 32% support.

With 15% of likely voters saying they were still undecided, either of the two could still come out on top in the primary, but it’s unlikely either candidate would win the 50% needed to avoid a November runoff.

The election comes after a frantic few weeks of campaigning across the city, which has included increasingly personal and partisan attacks slung from each camp. Caruso’s supporters have attacked Bass’ attendance record in Congress, while Bass’ backers have talked nonstop about the businessman previously being registered as a Republican, as well as his previous ties to politicians who oppose abortion.

Since Caruso announced his candidacy in February, the Los Angeles Times’ polling has found the contest to be largely a two-person race, with Caruso and Bass appealing to contrasting bases of support.

Concerns over rising crime have provided the driving force behind Caruso’s campaign, which early on drew strong support from more conservative Angelenos, especially white voters. Over time, however, he also has won over a growing number of Latino and Black male voters, the poll found. Bass gained ground with the biggest segments of the city’s electorate — her fellow Democrats, liberals and women. She also has maintained a strong lead among Black women, the poll found.

L.A. voters also will weigh in on a new city attorney and city controller as well as several City Council races. The District 3 Board of Supervisors seat is up for grabs, as are seats on the Los Angeles school board.

Among the competitive statewide races is the bid for attorney general, an election that comes amid debate over rising crime and the impact of decades of criminal justice reform in California. Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta is up against an independent, Sacramento Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, and two Republicans, former Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Nathan Hochman and Los Angeles attorney Eric Early.

San Francisco voters will decide whether to recall Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin, who was elected in 2019 on a platform of criminal justice reform but has faced backlash over crime and homelessness.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer, who has weathered criticism after racist comments he made while discussing the case of a Black defendant, faces several challengers.

In the race for California controller, Republicans hope a divided field of Democrats will allow the party’s single candidate to emerge on top.

But even then, Democrats are likely to have the advantage in November. Republicans have not won a general election for statewide office since 2006, the year Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nabbed reelection and Steve Poizner became insurance commissioner.



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