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“Run Karen Run”: The Campaign to Make Congresswoman Karen Bass L.A.’s Next Mayor

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As the California recall race reaches fever pitch in the countdown to September 14, there is yet another political campaign that is gathering steam as what began as a behind-the-scenes move to enlist Congresswoman Karen Bass in the 2022 mayoral race has gained momentum both in L.A. political circles and the media.

Leading the charge are several women’s democratic clubs that have launched online campaigns to draft the Congresswoman into the race, including the California Black Women’s Democratic Club which posted: “We believe the residents of Los Angeles would like to have a progressive option in the field of candidates. We also know that Bass is a solution-focused candidate who has a track record of solving complex problems. Like many of us, she got her start in community organizing, problem-solving as the founder of the Community Coalition.”

They were the same black women who rallied around Bass when she was eyed as a possible replacement for the senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris in a “keep the seat” campaign that included black leaders and women’s groups across the state and nation, but ultimately ended when— in a move characterized as a snub against black women—Governor Gavin Newsom instead chose California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Yet another campaign dubbed “Run Karen Run” by veteran political strategist Kerman Maddox of Dakota Communications and others is asking business and community members to sign letters encouraging the Congresswoman to return home and run while also gaging support on behalf of the 67-year old legislator who was said to be seriously considering a mayoral bid.

“The arc of her journey has been really impressive and I’m excited about the groundswell of support she is receiving, which is unusual for someone who is just rumored to be a candidate,” Maddox said.

“The possible entrance of Bass, who has been one of the few politicians I can say didn’t do a Jekyll and Hyde after being sworn into office, has been the most welcomed news since President Biden announced he’s sending Mayor Eric Garcetti to India”, Democratic political strategist Jasmyne Cannick wrote in a recent op-ed for the California Black Media. “Who we elected is who we got with Bass — a compassionate, thoughtful and bold leader on important issues”.

City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas is also among the many urging Congresswoman Karen Bass to run having made the decision that he would not seek the post.

“I take the position that if Karen Bass were to launch a campaign, she would be formidable, because of her experience at the federal level; because of her experience at the state level; because of her experience as a health care professional [former nurse]; and because of gender. Those factors are really going to be important,” Ridley-Thomas said of the field of likely candidates include City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilmember Joe Buscaino and Kevin de Leon, City Council President Nury Martinez and billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso.

“She has not yet made that determination, but she would be a force with which to reckon and the current field knows and appreciates that very point.”

A recent poll bears witness to just how formidable a force Bass would be. Conducted by FM3 Research from July 29-August 5, the survey of 803 people put Bass in the lead with 22% of the respondents indicating that they would vote for her. 

The poll also indicated that Bass had the advantage of being the best known among the candidates and led with Black Angelenos and people on the Westside and South Los Angeles.

Fact is, Bass’ name had surfaced relative to the mayoral race even before Ridley-Thomas bowed out the race. Back in April, a spokesman remarked that though people had asked her to consider running, “she was not considering running for mayor at this time”.

Bass, who had been mum on the issue, was recently quoted in an interview with KPCC/LAist, that she was “overwhelmed and humbled by people pushing me to do this, and I will say that I am seriously considering it.” 

She is expected to announce her intentions later this month and if the answer is affirmative, will have nine months to fundraise and put together an effective campaign.

No one questions the qualifications of the L.A. native whose national profile rose with her chairmanship of the Congressional Black Caucus, her consideration as a vice presidential candidate by Joe Biden and her current leadership in the legislative reckoning over race and police violence. 

Observed Maddox, “Karen Bass is a uniquely talented elected official who has the ability to work with and connect with supporters and critics to get things done because everybody respects her and people really like her and in electoral politics likeability is priceless.

“As she was being vetted to be on the ticket as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential running mate,” Maddox continued, “people talked about her integrity, her legislative accomplishments, her leadership skills and her career trajectory but the thing I heard more than anything throughout that process was her ability to bring people together because people trusted her and genuinely liked her.”

The six-term lawmaker, who founded the social justice non-profit, the Community Coalition—has since 2011—represented California’s 37th Congressional district, which stretches from Inglewood to Century City and includes Leimert Park, Culver City, Mid-City, West Adams, Mar Vista, Westwood, Ladera Heights and University Park.

If elected, Bass would make history as the first woman to serve as L.A. mayor. It wouldn’t be the first time Bass has made history. In 2008, she was elected to serve as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first African American woman in United States history to serve as a Speaker of a state legislative body.

Election watchers will be looking to see if the early buzz and name identification pay off at the polls. To avoid a November runoff, Bass would have to get more than 50% of the vote. The primary election is set for June 7, 2021.


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