Five Los Angeles mayoral candidates were on the “bimhah” at a San Fernando Valley synagogue on March 21 to discuss the issue of homelessness.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., a progressive who is leading the pack in the polls, was speaking when the activists shouted her down, calling her a liar. City Councilman Kevin de León got shouted down in Spanish.

The rabbi tried and failed. The candidates packed up and left. It all made the news.

The homeless activists, as is usually the case in these shout downs, did their cause more harm than good.

It reminded everyone who read about it or saw it on the news of every bad encounter you’ve ever had with a homeless person, of the encampment you drive past to get on the freeway, of the disgrace that is the grounds of the Veterans Affairs, of the mess in Venice, of the mess in Echo Park, of the blight of homelessness as much as the plight of the homeless.

And it is the blight of homelessness that may end up shaping the next mayoral election, one to watch in the great game of trying to figure out where we are as a nation politically.

By all rights, a progressive like Bass, a longtime member of Congress with a reputation for getting things done, should win the election. That she is a black woman at a time when diversity counts should simply seal the deal.

But the deal is far from sealed, and if I were a betting woman, my money would be not on the black woman progressive but on the white male billionaire developer who is already running ads that he will clean up the city.

Rick Caruso is the megasuccessful developer of destination shopping malls as well as Montecito’s Rosewood Miramar Beach.

Among his retail empire is The Grove, a Disneyland-esque island in the middle of the city that looks inward and has no homeless people. That it looks nothing like much of Los Angeles is a point of attraction. The little red trolley is very safe.

Los Angeles is a beautiful city facing the sort of quality-of-life issues that led to the Rudy Giuliani-community policing-broken-windows cleanup of New York City in the 1990s.

Los Angeles has been headed in the wrong direction. The new Metro, just a few years ago the pride and joy, is beset by crime and disorder, the nice word for homeless people who spend their time riding around on trains.

Venice Beach finally got cleaner when the Los Angeles County sheriff embarrassed the LAPD by announcing that he would enforce the law if the police wouldn’t, so the homeless moved a few blocks away.

The supposedly temporary “bridge shelter,” which has turned into a bridge to nowhere, is still there, even though it occupies one of the most expensive and desirable pieces of undeveloped land in the city.

Meanwhile, the activists manage to disrupt a constructive discussion of how to deal with the plight of the homeless by behaving like the most disturbed of their constituents, reminding everyone — even the good people who go to a synagogue for a candidates’ forum on homelessness — of just what a blight the homeless have created in our neighborhoods.

The blight of homelessness may lead a liberal city to look for a conservative solution. If the question is, which candidate will do more to deal with the blight of homelessness, with the threat to this city caused by an army of homeless people — some of them obviously mentally ill and unstable, some of them obviously angry and scary, some of them, many of them, tragic and needy — then it is hard to see any candidate in a better position than the megadeveloper from Pacific Palisades, the very wealthiest section of the city, who previously served as Police Commission chairman as well as chairman of the USC Board of Trustees.

I’ve known him for years, and I would never bet against him. Especially not when there’s shouting. Stay tuned

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.