Karen Bass, California’s Next Speaker


Karen Bass appears to be the next speaker of the California Assembly, the first African-American woman to be elected to the post. 

Bass and current Speaker Fabian Nunez told lobbyists and others Wednesday night that she had endorsement letters from 33 members of the 48-member Democratic caucus – well more than needed to elect her speaker. 

 Her elevation is a victory for Nunez who backed her ascendancy, some asserted, largely because she is expected to run for a Los Angeles city council seat within the next couple years, paving the way for Nunez’s pal, Kevin de Leon to succeed her.  

Regardless of her future ambitions, Bass is termed out in 2010. 

A vote on the new speaker was scheduled for March 11 but could come as early as Thursday (Feb. 28). Smart politicians know postponing a vote usually guarantees fewer supporters in the future than at the present.   

Bass, 54, is even-keeled and well-regarded among her peers and the lobbying corps. Her chief policy interest has been foster care, one of California’s worst failing social programs.  

Raised in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles, Bass is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. 

Bass and Senate President Pro Tempore-Apparent Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento are both strongly supported by labor and share a common passion for helping those grasping onto the lowest rungs of California’s economic ladder.  

It’s unlikely though that Bass’ elevation will tilt the balance of power in the Legislature away from the Senate which has been the dominant house since Willie Brown left the Assembly in 1995.  


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