Karen Bass speaks about her new role in Washington

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

LeTania Kirkland: Now that election day has passed, what are your objectives in this new role?

Karen Bass: Well, you know, first order of business is really getting organized and hiring staff and the nuts and bolts of getting ready to take office and move across country. That’s the beginning, and then after that is really looking at where things are going to be. Considering there was such a dramatic change in Congress, it’s really going to take a couple of weeks before it’s even clear what direction I can proceed.

Kirkland: Now that Republicans have taken control of the House, what challenges do you anticipate, and how do you think you might work together or compromise to meet your own objectives?

Bass: I’m used to working with Republicans. I just finished serving six years in the state Legislature and two years as speaker. In those two years as speaker, I had to work with the legislative leaders on the other side of the aisle. I’m used to that. I do anticipate, though, that it’s going to be quite chaotic. I do believe January, I’m going to find a certain level of chaos. The Republicans coming in are coming from a couple of different perspectives. The Republicans who are in office now, and then you have ones that are coming in that are going to be much stronger in terms of being conservative, and so how they are going to act with the existing Republican caucus I think is going to be one area of challenge and then the change in leadership, so the Democrats stepping down from chairmanships and Republicans taking over, I think January and February is going to be pretty chaotic.

Kirkland: After Diane Watson’s long run in Congress, what is it like following that legacy?

Bass: I feel wonderful about it and extremely honored that number one, she felt I could follow in her footsteps. I’ve certainly been in contact with her very closely over these last two years, and I feel that she has done a tremendous amount to prepare me. I feel ready to serve, and with the challenges we’ve had in California over the last couple of years, I think it has served as good preparation for me.

Kirkland: In today’s political climate, a lot of the focus has been driven to everyday middle America. How might you bring the focus back to cities and inner-cities in particular?

Bass: Everyday middle America is Los Angeles. What we’re facing here is being experienced around the country, and that’s record unemployment. And of course the unemployment in the district is high in certain areas. The overall district is relatively affluent compared to the rest of Los Angeles, but there are very serious pockets of poverty. And so many of the issues related to that, I’ve had a long history working on and plan to continue in Congress. What I would be able to do, though, is truly remained to be seen.

Kirkland: You were a community organizer for years. How has that work influenced your work in politics thus far, and how do you imagine it will in the future?

Bass: Being a community organizer has been extremely helpful to me. I use the same principles of organizing in the six years when I was in Sacramento. It helped me obtain the speakership, it helped me get legislation passed. Community organizing, very simply said, is about building, maintaining and connecting relationships. That’s what it’s about. And so, you know, the skills and the art that you learn as an organizer is applicable, as far as I’m concerned, to many different areas of life, but it’s extremely applicable to the legislative process.

Kirkland: Given that it may take through the month of January for things to settle, is there still any hope that you have for this time that you’re stepping into?

Bass: Oh, sure. I mean, I have plenty of hope. Believe me, I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t. I think that we’re in a situation that has happened historically, where any time you’re in the mid-year, two years into a new presidency, you see this type of change. I think this type of change is something that happens and it’s a question of regrouping and moving forward. I do believe that once things settle down, I will be able to accomplish things. The issues that I’ve worked on, foster care, education reform, health care, criminal justice issues, it’ll take me a month or two before I can determine what I can start working on. The good thing about Congress is that I won’t be term limited. Naturally, I have to run for re-election, but I can actually have a long-term plan, and I will begin to establish that after January is over.

Contact Karen Bass:
Capitol Office
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0047
(916) 319-2047
(916) 319-2147 fax

District Office
5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 565
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4747
(323) 937-3466 fax

Email: [email protected]


  1. john hankey says:

    It would be nice if you posted contact information for our congress person.

  2. Emily Henry says:

    Thanks John. We’ve added contact information for Karen Bass to this article, per your suggestion.

Speak Your Mind