Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared at a rally Thursday night supporting Congresswoman Karen Bass’ campaign for mayor of Los Angeles.
Sanders endorsed Bass in early October, calling her “the clear choice” for mayor. With Rick Caruso closing the gap in recent polls, Sanders took to the stage of Playa Vista’s Central Park Bandshell to encourage Angelenos to vote for his Democratic colleague.
“The challenges we face today are more difficult than at any time in our lifetimes,” Sanders said. “[Bass] has been a leader in Congress on all of the economic, environmental, racial and social issues that we face.”
Sanders used most of his stage time to discuss the upcoming midterm elections and various national political issues, saying he was unsure “whether or not this great country remains a democracy.”
He touched on issues such as abortion rights and climate change, denoting them as pivotal in this year’s elections, but lent most of his focus to the rapid growth of the U.S. wealth gap.
“60% of our people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said. “While working families struggle…we have never had a moment where the richest people are doing as well as they are today.”
Sanders used this rhetoric for a few jabs at Bass’ opponent, developer Rick Caruso, calling for an end to the “corrupt political system that allows billionaires to buy elections.” A number of the event speakers criticized Caruso’s campaign spending, many of whom referred to his $90 million advertising budget as a method of “buying” the election.
“[Caruso] has spent 90 million dollars on ads that are lying about his record,” said Sydney Brown, president of Trojan Democrats, as she took the stage to open up the event. “It’s time to elect a leader with policies that accurately reflect our values as a city.”
An assortment of other special guests made appearances at the event, including representatives from activist groups, elected officials and two musical acts. For her speech, Bass was joined by members of the Youth for Bass movement, calling them the “next generation” of problem solvers for Los Angeles and the U.S.
Comedian Adam Conover, host of the hit show “Adam Ruins Everything,” made an appearance to support Bass through a number of jokes about her opponent. He decried that Caruso “refuses to release his tax return and has a suspiciously even tan,” making a thinly-veiled reference to Caruso’s billionaire developer counterpart, Donald Trump.
“Last time I checked, I didn’t think the problem in L.A. was that wealthy real estate developers didn’t have enough power,” Conover said.
A number of speakers seemed to hold the belief that Caruso’s background makes him incapable of relating to the average citizen, and that Bass’ upbringing as a born-and-raised Angeleno makes her a more suitable pick for the city’s top office.
“We need to elect someone who understands that L.A. does well when everyone does well,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) said. “Not just the top tenth of the top one percent.”
The event drew a large crowd of attendees, some camping out on the bandshell lawn with blankets and folding chairs. A large student population was present, most noticeably from UCLA, but the event certainly drew from a wide demographic, with a number of families in attendance.
Some attendees seemed drawn to the event out of support for Sen. Sanders, as the crowd was peppered with campaign shirts and hats that served as relics of Sanders’ two presidential campaigns. Others, however, seemed inspired by Bass and her vision for L.A.
Monique Nicole Hernandez, Vice President of SEIU 121RN, a California nurses union, said she and her colleagues were present because they “believed in Bass’ fight.”
“She backed us when there was…an investigation that went into capping travel nurse pay,” Hernandez said. “She sat down with us, she listened to us, and she recanted her support for that letter.”
A number of other union groups came out to support the congresswoman, including Carpenters for Bass. Sen. Sanders was vocally supportive of these unions, praising revolutionaries at companies like Starbucks for working toward unionization.
“This campaign must be our fight for a vision to create a nation and a government that works for all and not just a few,” Sanders said. “In America, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty.”
Bass touched on a number of issues in her speech, but seemed to focus her attention on abortion rights and homelessness, calling herself a “lifelong pro-choice Democrat who has always been on your side.”
“If we don’t act now, if we don’t win this election,” she said. “We will return to the day of failed solutions, shelters and warehouses locking people up, criminalizing poverty.”
Bass also took plenty of digs at her opponent, whom she referred to as “the other guy.” She stated that she didn’t need to get on a campaign bus to explore L.A. and criticized Caruso for his relationships with prominent Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, as well as the customary remarks about the expense of his campaign.
“He’s using his riches to lie about his anti-choice Republican history,” said Bass, “and to lie about me.”
While initial polls showed Bass holding a commanding lead over Caruso, new data reflects a closer race, with Caruso no longer trailing by double digits. With 12 days left until election day, Bass and her guests encouraged attendees to volunteer with opportunities such as phone banks and canvassing programs.
Election day is Nov. 8.