June 7, 2022
While most states saw highest amount of ad spending in high profile, federal level races, the California primary race that gained the most traction and spending was a local race. Over a third of the total $95M in spending for the 2022 California primaries was recorded in the Los Angeles Mayoral election.
Overall, we recorded $33M across media types in the Los Angeles Mayor 2022 primary, which is over 30 times the amount of spending as the mayoral primary from 2017, situating this race as a very interesting case to dive into spending analytics for.
Incumbent Eric Garcetti (D) accepted a nomination (pending Senate approval) from President Joe Biden to become the U.S. Ambassador to India on July 9, 2021, leaving the floor open for new candidates. Twelve candidates put their name into the mix, but three have since withdrawn from the race. Of the nine remaining, two have pulled ahead of the rest. Rick Caruso (D) and Karen Bass (D) are leading in polls and spending. Los Angeles' Mayoral election is officially considered a nonpartisan race, so the primary can be run between candidates from all parties. A recent poll showed Caruso narrowly leading Bass 37 percent to 35 percent. The front runners spent for a combined $27.4M.
Spending Analytics for the Front Runners
Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer from Los Angeles who has never served in office, announced his run this February. Caruso, who was previously registered as a Republican changed his party preference to Democrat in January 2022. He started spending shortly after announcing his run, with his first ads airing the week of February 13. His spending peaked the week of May 15 when he totaled $2.53M for the week.
Caruso spent across all media types, focusing his messaging on ending homelessness and crime in LA. His campaign spent $987K on a creative airing for 23 days entitled “I Love LA,” that focused on his passion for helping the city, as well as his past accomplishments for Los Angeles. Caruso’s ads tapped into the city’s rising frustration surrounding homelessness and crime. Even in a predominantly democratic city, Caruso is using a more moderate platform to try to win votes and has the potential to make Los Angeles take a Republican lean in the Mayoral race for the first time in over 20 years since Rick Riordan served from 1993-2001.
Caruso’s campaign favored messaging on broadcast, spending almost 75% on broadcast. He spent a total of $18M on broadcast, with cable in second at $3.8M. He also spent on digital ($2.5M) and radio ($0.92M). Caruso has received endorsements from several prominent public figures, such as Elon Musk.
The other leader in the polls, Karen Bass, has held office for over 30 years, most recently serving as U.S. Representative for California’s 37th Congressional District since 2011. She has the chance to become LA’s first woman and second Black person to hold the title of Los Angeles Mayor.
Bass own campaign spent ad money through the duration of the race, but we also saw a large amount of money from a PAC called Communities United for Karen Bass. The PAC supporting Bass favored broadcast buys, spending $960K on broadcast, whereas Bass’ campaign focused on cable buys, spending $747K on cable. Communities United for Karen Bass spent $702K on ads during the week of May 22, but only aired creatives between the weeks of May 15 and June 5. Her campaign bought airtime between the weeks of May 1 and June 5. Even with PACs spending in support of Karen Bass, there is a large disparity in total ad spending in favor of the two leading candidates, where as of the night before the primary, Caruso outspent Bass and her supporting groups by twelvefold.
Communities United for Karen Bass spent $670K airing an ad that attacked Rick Caruso for being a lifelong Republican, calling him “The Donald Trump of Los Angeles.” Bass focused her campaign on her experience as an elected official since 2004, and received the endorsement from the Los Angeles Times, and from her colleague, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
The Rest of the Ballot
The three candidates who withdrew all spent sizable amounts of money before announcing their decisions to exit the race. Joe Buscaino (D), who serves on the Los Angeles City Council, cancelled all booked broadcast flights but still ended up spending $355K on cable. He ended up dropping out of the race to support Rick Caruso. Current Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer (D) spent $926K between broadcast and cable but dropped out and is now supporting Karen Bass for the position. Ramit Varma, an independent candidate who spent $227K on radio and digital, now endorses Rick Caruso.
Another notable candidate is Kevin De Leon (D), who currently holds a position in the Los Angeles City Council. He spent $1.3M between broadcast, cable, and digital, and has stayed in the race despite decreasing polling numbers.
Aside from the PAC supporting Karen Bass, we saw spending from two other issue groups. Los Angeles Police Protective League saw broadcast spending against Karen Bass that totaled $2.6M. They spent for just three weeks between May 8 and May 29, showing creatives that attacked Bass for bribery and corruption. Working Families for Soto, Price and Good for Council and Kevin de Leon for Mayor spent $173K on ads in support of De Leon.
If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote on June 7, the top two primary finishers will advance to a November runoff election. With Caruso and Bass neck and neck, we may see the two face off on November 8.