Her national stature and political savvy could pay dividends, some activists say
By Janice Hayes Kyser
LOS ANGELES – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass’ national stature, political savvy and deep local connections could be a positive game changer for South L.A. were she to win her bid to become the city’s first woman mayor, some community activists say.
“Karen has always had a broad understanding of the issues affecting Los Angeles,” said Robert Sausedo, president and CEO of Community Build, a social service group founded after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. “But her abiding commitment to and understanding of life in South L.A. in particular, her knowledge of benign neglect and how to hold people accountable is very promising for the city’s Black and brown residents.”
Bass ignited heightened political interest in next year’s mayoral race when she announced Sept. 27 that she planned a bid to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, who will be termed out of office. She joins several high-profile candidates for the post, including City Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Kevin de León, City Attorney Mike Feuer, civic activist Jessica Lall and businessman Mel Wilson.
Sausedo and others say Bass — a former community organizer and the immediate past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus — is uniquely qualified to tackle the complex issues facing city residents, including homelessness, affordable housing, career creation and police reform.
“Karen never lost her activist ties,” says activist and author Earl Ofari Hutchison. “She understands our community inside and out — and with her Capitol Hill savvy she knows how to get funding for education, housing and social services that will benefit South L.A.”
Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and Chicano and Chicana studies at Loyola Marymount University in L.A., says Bass’ candidacy is both symbolic and substantive.
“It is an acknowledgment and recognition of the importance of the city’s African-American community; and from a substantive standpoint, Bass is more likely to have a deep understanding of and be responsive to the needs of South L.A.”
Both Sausedo and Hutchison believe the race will be hard fought, but say Bass has the savvy and support to build a winning coalition. They further agree that Bass’ candidacy fits squarely in the “tide of growing female political power.”
“Karen’s candidacy represents the promise of American equality and opportunity,” says Sausedo. It won’t be a cake walk, but I do believe Los Angelenos will line up behind Karen.”
Hutchison believes a Bass victory would be good for the entire city and will “ignite a battle among many local elected officials for her seat” in Congress.
Bass, who would become the city’s second Black mayor, said in a statement that she is running to help solve the myriad of problems facing the city and its residents, notably homelessness.
“Our city is facing a public health, safety and economic crisis in homelessness that has evolved into a humanitarian emergency,” she said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “I’ve spent my entire life bringing groups of people together in coalitions to solve complex problems and produce concrete change — especially in times of crisis. Los Angeles is my home. With my whole heart, I’m ready. Let’s do this — together.”
On her campaign website, Bass emphasizes the need to address the “root causes” of such challenges as affordable housing, decent health care, proper job training and adequate mental health services and drug and alcohol counseling.
Garcetti, who is expected to leave office early pending the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of his appointment as ambassador of India, said at an unrelated news conference Sept. 27:
“I love Karen Bass and it’s going to be a very exciting race with all sorts of candidates in it. And the nice thing about being a former mayor … is that I’ll get to assess the candidates and I get to be a voter, so I can’t wait to hear what all the candidates have to say.”