Democratic Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso said at Tuesday’s debate that he is Latin — not white — because of his Italian heritage.
One of the debate moderators, Telemundo anchor Dunia Elvir, addressed the hot button incident where Los Angeles City Council member Nury Martinez stepped down as president over her racist remarks about a 2-year-old black child. In doing so, she said: “The next mayor of Los Angeles will be either an African-American woman or a white man.”
“I’m Italian,” Caruso interjected.
“An Italian American,” Elvir said.
The U.S. Census Bureau defines a person of Latino or Hispanic descent as an individual of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American descent or descended from Spanish culture — regardless of race.
The billionaire real estate developer — a longtime Republican who recently switched parties — will face off against Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass to replace incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose term limit has expired, according to the Los Angeles Times. Bass would become the first black mayor of Los Angeles if elected.
Caruso has vowed to expand healthcare and educational opportunities for black and Latino communities and has touted his close connections to these communities, NBC News reported. (RELATED: Crime-Focused LA Mayoral Race Heading For Runoff After Former Republicans Win Big)
“I connect with the Latino community but quite frankly my job as mayor is to connect with every community — the Latino community, the Black community, the Asian community, right? The Jewish community,” Caruso said. “If one one group rises, we all rise. We do this together in unison and we don’t separate, we don’t divide. But we all say to ourselves we can do this and we can have a better city.”
Caruso’s remark caused some uproar on Twitter, including from Community Coalition of South Los Angeles President Alberto Retana, who called it “terrible” that he referred to himself as Latin.
“Wow, did Caruso just say he is Latin? That he is not a white man? I am floored. We cannot let him do this. Terrible,” he said.
Wow, did Caruso just say he is Latin? That he is not a white man?
I am floored. We cannot let him do this. Terrible.
— Alberto Retana (@aretana) October 12, 2022
Can’t wait for Rick Caruso to claim Columbus was a Latino immigrant https://t.co/eiNk47CJ6b
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) October 12, 2022
Rick Caruso is Latin? ? #LAMayor
— sara sadhwani (@sarasadhwani) October 12, 2022
An early October poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that Bass is narrowly leading Caruso by 34% to 31%, according to the California Globe. The election is set to take place on October 11.