Karen Bass has surged in the betting market of PredictIt upon reports she’s been taken seriously by the Biden camp in the veepstakes and is a finalist.
CNN reports Joe Biden heads into the weekend weighing the biggest decision of his presidential campaign so far, and people close to the process tell CNN that the former vice president is believed to have now begun to narrow his personal shortlist of potential running mates to a handful of women.
In more than two dozen interviews with CNN in recent days, members of Congress, top Democratic donors, Biden allies and others close to the vice presidential vetting process said California Rep. Karen Bass, the 66-year-old chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained real traction in the late stage of the search.
Amid furious last-minute lobbying and speculation about Biden’s historic decision, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, are also believed to be among the most serious contenders.
The search continues to be conducted under extreme secrecy, with even many top campaign advisers in the dark about the vetting process. Several additional women have also gone through extensive examination by the Biden team, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Florida Rep. Val Demings and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Others, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have also received various levels of scrutiny by the vetting team.
Biden’s team has yet to tell any of the women they’ve considered in earnest for the vice presidential role that they are officially out of the running, people familiar with the process said, with one source saying 11 women are still formally being considered.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a former physician’s assistant and community organizer, Bass said she brings experience to tackle the nation’s economic, racial and health care crises.
“I have historically, for the last four or five decades, focused on building coalitions and building bridges between ethnic groups, between political ideologies,” she told The Associated Press this week. “I’m a very goal-driven person; I am focused on getting stuff done. And I am willing to work with whoever, whenever, however.”
Her low-key approach was evident as early as 1990, when she launched a nonprofit in Los Angeles. One of the organization’s tenets was “no celebrity-style leadership.” Unlike some of her competitors for vice president, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Bass hasn’t sought national office and has no stated presidential aspirations.
But that means she is lesser known to voters, lacks a major donor base and hasn’t faced the scrutiny of a national campaign. A past comment about former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro could be troublesome to Hispanic voters in the key swing state of Florida.
Still, she brings plenty of political cachet. She left Sacramento for Congress in 2010 and now chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. After George Floyd’s killing by police, she led Democratic efforts on legislation to overhaul law enforcement, a push that prompted Biden’s team to take her more seriously as a potential running mate.
“She got high marks for managing that deal, but she’s managed similar bills in the past,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a former CBC chair and Biden ally. “She has a resume that I think is good to be considered.”
Bass, 66, wouldn’t discuss her vetting. But Fabian Nunez, a former state Assembly speaker and close friend of Bass’, said she’s been “properly vetted.” He supported Bass as his successor in the Legislature because the difficult budget talks required a “less ideological” leader who could bring people together, qualities the country needs today.
“The country needs healers,” he said.
Both Biden and Bass learned to heal through personal tragedy. Biden lost his wife and young daughter in a car accident in 1972. In 2006, Bass’ 23-year-old daughter and son-in-law died in a car accident.
Before entering politics, Bass worked in a Los Angeles emergency room, where she saw the havoc brought by the crack cocaine epidemic and police crackdown that fueled the arrests of young men of color. She created the Community Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at treating gang violence and the drug trade as public health issues.
After surveying 30,000 residents, the organizers learned that liquor stores were a surprising source of the problem, providing a haven for drug deals and other illicit behavior. They helped shut down 150 stores.
When Los Angeles City Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson started working at the coalition in 1995 at age 25, he didn’t know Bass. But he knew the liquor stores he’d been told to avoid his whole life were closed.
“It was very meaningful for me because you hear a lot of political talk, particularly post-1992,” he said, referring to the year of the Los Angeles riots that followed the beating of Rodney King by white police officers. “Those things never get done. Here was Karen, quietly setting up goals (and) knocking them down.”