In the waning days before the Democratic National Convention, South Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass turned out to be the top candidate, probably to be President candidate Joe Biden's presidential candidate for the White House.
Bass, 66, is perceived as a biden shortlist by national experts and is in her fifth term in Congress, representing Cheviot, the 37th congressional district that includes South LA, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, and Century City Hills, West Los Angeles and Mar Vista.
She will be re-elected in November. But while she has risen to the top of the leadership of the Black Congress these years, observers say her low-amp approach to bridge building has become ideal for a biden ticket.
Bass has been relatively silent about her prospects, but the Democratic legislator told the Associated Press this week: “For the past four or five decades, I have historically focused on building coalitions and building bridges between ethnic groups, between political ideologies. I am a very goal-oriented person. I focus on getting things done. And I'm ready to work with whoever whenever. "
Experts say that Bass, along with former national security advisor Susan E. Rice, has topped Biden's list of impressive contenders, which includes Senator Kamala Harris – shortly a contender for the top democratic ticket itself – and wounded fights known media reports was the veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth from Illinois.
Another former presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Florida Rep. Val Demings, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are also on the shortlist.
The Washington Post cited that Bass has recently turned up the heat in anti-President Donald Trump's rhetoric, which could suggest that she is serious about the VP slot. The New York Times partially attributed its rise to "intense lobbying by its House Democrats," which "impressed" the former Vice President's search committee.
Bass's candidate status generally seems to be fueled by a robust, if controversial, career and a reputation as a bridge builder – although the term in Congress had no presidential aspirations of its own. Her consensus-building skills are seen as crucial today given the polarized state of U.S. politics – and it helps that she's popular, experts and observers say.
"She has a good relationship with people and has demonstrated a remarkable level of resilience in her own life," said Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has known bass for decades since he was a school teacher and physician assistant. "It is not too ambitious. She wasn't looking for that. It was looking for her. "
Former Assembly spokesman Fabian Nuñez, a close friend of Bass, told the Associated Press that it had been "properly screened."
Nuñez endorsed Bass as the successor as spokesman, he said, because she was able to reach consensus in sharp divisions and the legislature was then faced with tough budget negotiations. "The country needs healers," he said.
Bass grew up with three brothers in Venice / Fairfax. She attended Hamilton High School in the Caling Dominguez Hills and the medical assistant program at the School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She explains that she "proudly worshiped in the First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA".
She was a clinical instructor in the USC program and brought with her almost ten years of experience as a medical nurse.
All the while, threads of community activism and social justice ran through her efforts, even after 2006 when she lost her 23-year-old daughter and her son-in-law died in a car accident. (Biden also suffered a tragedy when his wife and daughter died in a freeway wreck in 1972.)
Bass, who worked in an emergency room, had seen enough social inequalities that led to color communities to bear the burden of violence and public health disparities. In the early 1990s, when gang wars and drugs were covering the neighborhoods of South LA, she founded the nonprofit community coalition with the goal of involving residents and addressing social injustice issues.
In part, their crusade fueled the explosion of liquor stores in the neighborhoods of South LA, where they became a breeding ground for drug dealing and violence. She tried to get rid of them.
U.S. Representative Karen Bass delivers the address at the USC opening ceremonies at the USC in Los Angeles on Friday, May 10, 2019. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)
When Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, started the coalition in 1995 at the age of 25, he didn't know Bass. But he knew that the liquor stores that he was supposed to avoid all his life were closed.
"It was very meaningful to me because you hear a lot of political talk, especially after 1992," he said recently to the Associated Press, referring to the year of the Los Angeles unrest that followed the white police trial when Rodney the king was beaten. "These things are never done. Here was Karen, who set quiet targets (and knocked them down). "
These goals would lead her to the State Assembly, where in 2008 she would be the first black woman to take on the role of speaker.
The Bass Assembly's tenure coincided with the Great Recession and was underpinned by its own legislative efforts to promote care legislation and health care reform.
Both issues remained with her as she headed to Congress, where, as Chair of Congress Black Caucus, she also pushed for criminal justice reform and called for law enforcement agencies to be more accountable given the country's recent social unrest.
"She is very much someone who was ahead of her time in forging multi-ethnic coalitions," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.
California's continued blueness coincided with the rise of bass and forged a bastion of progressive support, Regalado said.
While it may have been relatively unremarkable in the national scene, it really isn't anymore. Her profile was sharpened after George Floyd's death as she pushed law enforcement reform.
"I think that has changed effectively," said Ridley-Thomas of the more subdued rise in bass before COVID. "This is yesterday's news."
The Biden campaign has not spoken extensively about the Veepquest and its likely competitors. But the New York Times reported on Friday that Bass, along with Rice, has topped the list, according to democratic officials who have been informed of the process. And CNN said it "gained real traction in the late phase of the search."
Among other things, Ridley-Thomas believes that bass would be a solid, unshakable fit.
"She was who she was before the pandemic," he said, "and she was who she was before the social unrest epidemic."
Overall, Bass played the Veep-Buzz in its own way.
"I want to do," CNN said this week, "whatever the Vice President (Biden) wants me to do."
Observers note their lack of "political baggage," but conservatives could heat the heat with a 2016 statement they made about the death of Fidel Castro: "The death of Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba ", she said .
In an interview on MSNBC, she went back to comments received by President Barack Obama in the past few years as the government sought to restore diplomatic ties with the communist island nation.
"I talked to my colleagues in the house about it, and I certainly wouldn't say that again," said Bass. "I have always supported the Cuban people and the relationship that Barack Obama and Biden had in their administration to establish relationships."
Jack Pitney, professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College, wasn't sure how big the problem could be – even if Trump and his supporters intended to call "radical leftists" and jump on leaders they called " see socialist "tendencies.
It could alienate Cuban voters, especially in Florida, a vital swing state. "Nationwide, however, it's no longer a big deal," said Pitney.
Bass itself doesn't seem to see it as a deal breaker. "I absolutely believe there is a way that I cannot be held responsible for any role I play in the campaign," she told the Associated Press. "And Florida is also a very big state."
Social media buzz was also triggered on Friday when the daily caller reported that Bass praised the controversial Church of Scientology in 2010 during a ribbon cutting ceremony for its redesigned facility on Sunset Boulevard. Bass was quoted as saying, "The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference because your creed is a universal creed and speaks to everyone everywhere."
According to a press release from the Church of Scientology, Paul Koretz, Coucilman of the city of LA, and former county sheriff Lee Baca, among others, attended the event, announcing that the facility was a great moment for LA and praising the organization for being there helped keep crime low.
So that you all know, I proudly worship in the First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA. pic.twitter.com/1sEpF5KpRF
– Karen Bass (@KarenBassTweets) August 1, 2020
"Ten years ago, I visited a reopening in my district and talked to what we all believe in – respecting each other's views, treating everyone with respect and fighting oppression wherever I find them." Bass said in a statement as an answer published on Twitter on Saturday morning. "I found an area of consistency in their beliefs – in which all people, regardless of race, skin color or belief, are created with equal rights, what my remarks were about."
She added: “Since then, first-hand published reports in books, interviews and documentation have exposed this group. Everyone is now aware of the allegations against Scientology. In 2010, I attended the event and knew that I would appeal to a group of people with completely different beliefs than my own. I spoke briefly about things that I think most of us agree with, and these things – respect for different views, equality, and the fight against oppression – my views have not changed. "