How Karen Bass quickly rose to the top of Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president

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Karen Bass worked in Cuba, became an activist in South LA, climbed the ranks in the California State Assembly, and has been in Congress since 2011. Now she’s on Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president. Photo by U.S. Institute of Peace (CC BY 2.0).

LA Congresswoman Karen Bass’ political record is now under intense scrutiny because she’s rocketed to the top of Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is expected to announce his VP pick in the next week or so. 

Bass spent part of the 1970s working in Cuba, then became an activist in South LA in the 1980s and 1990s. She won election to the California State Assembly in 2004, and was the only Black woman serving in the assembly at the time. She served as Assembly Speaker starting in 2008 during the Great Recession. 

Bass has been in Congress since 2011. She rose to national prominence after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped her to lead a police reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s death in late May.

One of Biden’s perceived weaknesses as a candidate is that he doesn’t have support from the progressive wing of the party. Does Bass fill that gap and excite more libreral voters in the way that someone like Elizabeth Warren might? Or does it really matter? 

Also at the top of the VP shortlist: Kamala Harris. KCRW looks at major differences between Harris and Bass.