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Wednesday night was debate night in Los Angeles, as the candidates for the next mayor and sheriff went head-to-head on stage.
The two debates were held back-to-back, for some of the most consequential races on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The undercard, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and challenger, current Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, started the night off.
Villanueva argued that his reelection is about the independence of the Sheriff’s office, and said that Luna is a candidate of the LA County Board of Supervisors.
“They want a puppet, and we have the person right here,” Villanueva said of Luna on stage.
Villanueva has argued with the Board over budgets, policy, and in court.
“When you’re working with people, that doesn’t mean you’re a puppet,” Luna countered. “This nonsense has gotta stop. We’ve got to start acting like adults.”
Conflict on law enforcement, such as the issue of deputy gangs, were central to the sheriff’s debate.
Then came time for the main event — the debate between the two candidates for LA Mayor.
Congresswoman Karen Bass, frontrunner in the race, was on the attack against businessman Rick Caruso after he called into question a $100,000 scholarship Bass received from USC’s Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
The school of social work has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Federal prosecutors have said there was no application, she got a $95,000 scholarship, she failed to report it in Congress on the paperwork where it had to be reported,” Caruso accused on stage.
Prosecutors say Bass is not the focus of the probe, and the House Ethics Committee ruled her degree, while a gift, would ultimately help her as a member of Congress.
“To better serve the children of the United States — I didn’t apply for an MBA, so that I could be a venture capitalist,” Bass said of why she received the degree. “It’s a social work degree.”
The two candidates clashed over how to solve the homelessness crisis, with Caruso calling for immediate shelters, and Bass advocating for long-term supportive housing.
“Everything that is working works when you get people off the street,” Caruso said.
“What we have done for too long is we have put people in shelters,” Bass said. “Now the shelters have become so dangerous that people don’t even want to be in the shelters.”
Caurso, a former Republican, defended his credentials as a Democrat. Bass had accused him of supporting anti-abortion Republicans, and her supporters have tried to link him to Donald Trump.
Both candidates also came out strongly against crime in Los Angeles, with Caruso criticizing the City Council for reducing the LAPD budget several years ago. The department is still short hundreds of officers, and Caruso wants to step up that number.
Bass countered the need to hire more officers by saying a more immediate solution would be to get civilians to take the positions of some LAPD officers who are behind the desk, and get those officers out on the street.
“This was, I think, something that was going to be must-see political TV, but for those junkies,” said Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, NBC4’s political contributor. “It really got inside baseball — not sure it moved the needle among a lot of voters.”
Bass is the favorite to win, winning first in the primaries and leading by double digits in some polls.
Candidates for LA Mayor, Sheriff Face Off in Wendesday Debates – NBC Los Angeles
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