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Ramit Varma drops out of L.A. mayoral race, endorses Rick Caruso

Ramit Varma at his campaign launch event at L.A.'s Banc of California Stadium in October.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Ramit Varma, a little-known candidate who poured $4 million of his own money into the mayoral race, dropped out Monday to endorse Rick Caruso, a leading candidate who has put more than $30 million of his personal fortune into his campaign.

Some Angelenos might recognize Varma’s face from a handful of campaign billboards plastered around the city promising “A New Kind of Mayor.” Far more may know Caruso from his nonstop barrage of campaign advertising.

Standing on a citrus tree- and topiary-lined upstairs patio at the Grove on Monday afternoon, Varma said that while he and the real estate developer and have different experiences and backgrounds, the two men share the same goals.

“I think we need a business person in this office. We need somebody who can take control of the out-of-control spending and the corruption of City Hall,” Varma said, standing next to Caruso. A few hundred yards from the quiet patio, hundreds of unseen shoppers milled around Caruso’s mall.

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“I’m excited about working together now,” Caruso said, praising Varma’s background in tech and saying he represented a younger generation in the city.

Varma’s mayoral ambitions were not the first to extinguish at this luxury mall.

A little less than two weeks prior, Councilmember Joe Buscaino dropped out of the race and endorsed Caruso during a press conference in front of the Grove’s dancing fountain. Since then, the mayoral field has winnowed further, with City Atty. Mike Feuer ending his campaign and endorsing Rep. Karen Bass last week.

Varma entered the race with a splash last fall, renting out Banc of California Stadium for a 400-person launch event where he promised to end homelessness and cut government waste. But the tech entrepreneur’s largely self-funded campaign struggled to gain broader traction with voters in the months that followed.

Polling conducted in late March and early April showed he had the support of 1% of likely voters.

Bass and Caruso are the clear frontrunners in the race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti. Other candidates still in the race include Councilmember Kevin de León, activist Gina Viola, former Metro board member Mel Wilson and former public relations executive Craig Greiwe.

Ballots have already been printed and mailed, meaning voters can still select Varma, Feuer or Buscaino as their choice, and those votes will be counted.

Angelenos have until June 7 to mark and return their ballots. The top two vote-getters in the June election will advance to a November runoff unless a single candidate receives more than 50% of the vote and wins outright.

Mike Feuer’s departure from the L.A. mayor’s race three weeks before voting ends leaves Karen Bass, Rick Caruso and Kevin de León vying for a large bloc of undecided voters.

Varma, an Encino resident and co-founder of the online tutoring firm Revolution Prep, had put $4 million of his own money into his campaign since getting into the race last October. Running on bringing a data-driven approach to City Hall, Varma told The Times last month that he planned to put money into billboards, digital advertising and radio spots.

“I want it to be known to the people that there is a third option — a businessman who isn’t an out-of-touch billionaire, a person of color who isn’t a defund-the-police progressive,” he said at the time.


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