Rick Caruso spent $176 per vote, and Karen Bass shelled out $11.79

Looking at the return on investment in Los Angeles’ most expensive mayoral primary

Illustration of City Hall with dollars falling


Throughout the mayoral primary, mall developer Rick Caruso spent astronomical sums on a battalion of high-priced consultants and an incessant stream of TV commercials. Now, with nearly all the votes counted, the billionaire can finally quantify the return on his eight-figure investment.


Caruso spent about $41 million through June 1, according to disclosure statements filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. According to the latest election results, published Friday by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, he had received 232,230 votes, or just under 36%. That works out to approximately $176 per vote. 


That is about 15 times the $11.79 per vote paid by Karen Bass. The Congresswoman spent approximately $3.28 million and finished first, garnering 278,245 votes, or 43.1% of the returns. 


Los Angeles Mayoral Primary spending


The figures will change slightly in the coming weeks. According to the Registrar-Recorder, 7,075 county ballots remain to be counted, on top of the 1.62 million already tabulated; it is unclear how many of them include votes in the mayor’s race. The results will be certified on July 1.


Spending totals will also increase, as Ethics Commission disclosures only extend through June 1, and election day was June 7.


Still, the current figures provide a window into what it took for Caruso to advance to the second round.


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Money spent and votes received in the 2022 mayoral primary

Table of expenditures and votes in the 2022 mayoral primary



Well beyond Garcetti and Greuel

Caruso’s expenditure—almost all of which came from his vast personal fortune—shatters the outlays by candidates in the last two contested elections. In the 2013 primary, Wendy Greuel paid $50.18 per vote, exceeding the $43.40 spent by Eric Garcetti, who would beat her in the runoff. 


Money spent and votes received in the 2013 mayoral primary

Tables of expenditures in the 2013 mayoral primary


Each spent in the vicinity of $5.3 million, but there were far fewer votes cast, as city elections then took place in odd-numbered years. (They now align with state and federal balloting in even-numbered years, an effort to increase turnout.) In the 2013 primary a total of 367,922 votes were cast, and Garcetti led with 121,930, or slightly less than half of Bass’s current count.


In the 2005 primary, Antonio Villaraigosa finished first with an expenditure of $21.31 per vote. Incumbent Jim Hahn was second after spending $38.38 per vote. Villaraigosa would win in the runoff.


Money spent and votes received in the 2005 mayoral primary

Table of expenditures in the 2013 mayoral primary

So far in this election, 645,315 mayor’s race votes have been counted, and turnout is in the vicinity of 30%. Councilmember Kevin de Leon, who finished third, spent $2.55 million and received the support of just over 50,000 Angelenos. That works out to $50.69 per vote, or more than four times what Bass spent.


The greatest return on investment was recorded by left-wing candidate Gina Viola. She spent less than $33,000 and received about 44,000 votes. Viola spent just 74 cents per vote, though she finished fourth, and did not come close to reaching the runoff.


How we did it: We examined financial disclosure statements published by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission in the 2022 mayoral primary through June 1, and vote counts from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Both the expenditures and the vote counts will increase in the coming days and weeks.


Interested in our data? Or have any questions? Write to us at askus@xtown.la.