Last week, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) announced that she is running to be the first woman mayor of Los Angeles – and the second African American to serve as CEO of California’s largest city.
A few days later, an influential group of about 45 civic, political, academic and business leaders called the California Black Women Collective joined hands on a Zoom call for what the meeting’s host Kellie Todd Griffin called “a party” to support the mayoral candidacy of the sitting, six-term U.S. Congresswoman.
Griffin, the senior vice president of Communications and External Affairs at the California Health Medical Reserve Corps, is a Los Angeles area-based organizer and entrepreneur known in California’s political circles for her outspoken advocacy for African American issues.
“It will be a victory. We are claiming it right now,” said Dezie Woods-Jones, talking about Bass’s mayoral run. Woods Jones, a Bay Area political strategist is president of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), the oldest African American political organization in the state.
“I am really proud of Black women who always make a difference in elections. I like to come back and remind us that sometimes we don’t brag enough about ourselves,” Woods-Jones continued, referring to the fact that African American women are the most loyal voting bloc in Democratic electoral politics across the country. “We should not be embarrassed to say that we have been the people who have, across the board, come to the forefront and made a difference. We consistently show up and show out.”
After praising Bass for her ability to negotiate with her colleagues and build coalitions across racial, ethnic, cultural and other lines that may divide Americans, Woods Jones announced BWOPA’s official endorsement of Bass.
Looking back at her experience working as Bass’ chief of staff when she was a California Assemblymember representing the 47th District in Southern California, Nolice Edwards praised Bass for her accomplishments, including her election as Speaker of the state Assembly from 2008 to 2010.
Bass said one reason she decided to run for the Assembly was the fact that there were no Black women serving in the state legislature at the time.
Edwards, who has over 30 years of state government leadership experience, is now an independent political consultant based in Sacramento.
“She is strategic. She is politically savvy. She is a a coalition builder,” Edwards continued, describing her former boss. “She is a founder of a community coalition where her advocacy helped to make sure that Black and Brown communities were taken care of and serviced and provided for in the right way.”
Bass thanked the women on the call for their support.
“It is all this energy, love and spirit that will allow me to go on this journey and the idea that you will walk with me on this journey – this will be the toughest journey I’ve ever been on, so from the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough,” she said.
Bass went on to explain some of the reasons she is running for mayor.
“LA is in crisis,” she emphasized. “LA is in a crisis because we have 40,000 people living on the streets. And, if I include Compton, which is part of the county, there is 20,000 more people. That is 60,000 people who are without shelter on any given night. Unfortunately, in the city of Los Angeles, Black folks are 9 % of the population and 40 % of the people who are homeless. This is a humanitarian crisis.”
Bass, who said she is driven when people are front-and-center in her policymaking, urged her colleagues to implement smarter and longer-term solutions to address stubborn issues like homelessness — instead of opting to adopt temporary quick fixes.
“It is not okay to arrest our people. That is not a solution,” Bass said. “It is not okay to get rid of the encampments and just move them into areas where the communities do not have the resources to challenge it in court. That is not okay.”
Bass asked, “Why can’t we in the nation’s second largest city — that has the wealth — figure out how to house 40,000 people?”
The women on the call also promised to back Bass with their financial support, launching a challenge to each woman to donate $50 per week for 15 weeks.
“So far, in Los Angeles, this is our Tom Bradley moment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, referring to the city’s first African American mayor, who was elected in 1973.
“We have not had, in too many years, a Black candidate that all of us can coalesce around,” Mitchell continued. “We have to do this. This is our moment to stand up for a progressive Black woman to lead the second largest city in the country. We have to have her back and provide her cover.”
So far, U.S. Reps Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Mike Levin (D-CA-49), Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Katie Porter (D-CA-45), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) and Juan Vargas (D-CA-51) have all pledged their support for Bass. At least 30 Southern California political leaders have done the same, including Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena); Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles); LA County Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl; and LA City Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price and Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Before leaving the meeting early to cast votes in Congress, Bass described what her candidacy for mayor will look like.
“It will be a grassroots campaign that brings the city together,” she said. “Black, Brown, White, Asian – brings everybody together. We are going to formally launch with a grassroots kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 16. Although I’m running to win, it will also be an opportunity to build a movement: getting people excited, energized and involved.”