Six Things to Know About Local Congresswoman Karen Bass

By Lydia You

Los Angeles politician Karen Bass has shot up in Joe Biden’s shortlist of VP candidates in the past couple weeks. With Biden expected to announce his pick any day now, here are six things to know about the California Congresswoman, who represents Culver City, Mar Vista and parts of West Los Angeles in the House of Representatives.

1. She’s a local

Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Venice-Fairfax area, Bass has long-standing knowledge of the neighborhoods she represents. She went on to study at San Diego State University, California State University (Dominguez Hills) and USC. 


2. Well-respected by both sides

Bass was elected to the California state legislature in 2004, where she quickly rose in the ranks to be appointed as 2005-06 majority whip and 2006-07 majority floor leader. She was then elected speaker of this legislative body in 2008 the first African-American woman to hold such a position in U.S. history  and went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. She currently represents the 37th District and serves as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, a position she’s held since 2018. She recently spearheaded the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Bass has garnered bipartisan respect for her pragmatism and ability to form crucial bonds to push policy through.

3. Scientology snafus

In 2010, Karen Bass gave a speech at the opening of the Church of Scientology’s LA headquarters. According to Wikipedia, Scientology “describes itself as the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others, and all of life” and “holds that a human is an immortal, spiritual being (thetan) that is resident in a physical body.”

“That is why the words are exciting of your founder, L. Ron Hubbard…The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference because your creed is a universal creed, and one that speaks to people everywhere,” Bass said in her speech, leading many to be alarmed by her endorsement. 

She has since explained these remarks on Twitter, acknowledging that she knew she was speaking to a group of people who held very different values of her own but “found an area of agreement in their beliefs where all people of whatever race, color, or creed are created with equal rights.” She then re-affirmed that she herself “proudly worship[s] at First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA.”

4. An unconventional background

Bass graduated from the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant program and then went on to receive a bachelor of science degree in health sciences from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Her time in the medical field saw her confronting the crack cocaine epidemic in Southern California in the 1980s, eventually leading to the founding of Community Coalition, an organization aimed to transform the socio-economic and policy landscape of South LA to combat crime, violence, and addiction.

5. Cuba ties

Bass developed an interest in Cuba from a young age, first visiting the country on a trip hosted by the Venceremos Brigade in 1973 when she was 19 years old. The Brigade was founded in 1969 as a partnership between the Cuban government at the time and Students for a Democratic Society, aiming to help young Americans learn and show solidarity with the Cuban Revolution. She made eight total visits to Cuba in the 1970s.


6. Social justice/activism

Bass cites her lifelong interest in political activism and social justice to her upbringing during the U.S. anti-war movement in the 1960s-70s and witnessing African nations’ fights for independence in the 1960s. She explains that student activism was prevalent at her high school and helped her find her footing in fighting for causes she cares about, such as police brutality.