Last week’s decision by Rick Caruso, real estate developer and longtime Republican fundraiser, to back Democrat Jerry Brown for governor might have been the opening volley in the race for the Los Angeles mayor’s office in 2013.

Caruso contemplated a run for mayor office in 2009 but finally decided against it, citing the burden it would place on his family. But analysts see Caruso’s surprise announcement that he will cross party lines and organize a Feb. 2 fundraiser at his Brentwood home for Brown as a preparatory step for a future mayoral campaign. Cocktail hour is $1,000 per person; dinner is $10,000 per couple.

In other words, since Caruso is backing Brown now, perhaps in three years the former Gov. Moonbeam will support the meticulously groomed mall builder for mayor.

“The first thing I thought when I heard it was: L.A. mayor’s race 2013,” said Raphael Sonenshein, professor of political science at California State University in Fullerton. “It certainly helps Caruso if he wants to run for mayor because Los Angeles is a Democratic city.”

Hal Dash, chief executive at political consultancy Cerrell Associates in Hancock Park, sees Caruso’s fundraiser as a straightforward bet on who will win the governor’s race in November.

“Although he is a conservative businessman, Rick is pragmatic and he smells a winner in Jerry Brown,” said Dash, whose firm has longtime ties with the Democratic Party and has worked for Caruso in the past. “He did his due diligence on this one. Rick plays the present and the future – and plays them both very well.”

Caruso, chief executive of shopping mall developer Caruso Affiliated Holdings LLC, told the Business Journal that his decision was based on Brown’s accomplishment as mayor of Oakland.

Brown, currently state attorney general, is perhaps best known for his tenure as governor from 1975 to 1983, when his progressive policies earned him the Moonbeam moniker.

Caruso dismissed speculation that he would expect Brown’s support for a mayoral bid.

‘Future plans’

“It’s purely just me supporting Jerry Brown,” Caruso said. “I wouldn’t have anyone reading into it regarding my future plans.”

Caruso said he was impressed by Brown’s policies in economically depressed Oakland, where he focused on redevelopment, job creation and crime reduction – themes that fit with Caruso’s business-oriented agenda.

“The more people get to know him from the business sector and from the Republican side, they will be impressed with him,” Caruso said. “I will try to keep this dinner as an intimate affair where people can talk to him.”

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