A little over a week after running for the U.S. senate in California, Rep. Barbara Lee on Wednesday received the support of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, leader of California’s largest city and one of its most prominent and influential politicians of the state.
Bass served with Lee in Congress for more than a decade and supported her former colleague and friend to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein, who announced in February that she would retire at the end of her current term, in January 2025. Bass said Lee’s experience as a “progressive fighter” in Washington is what the state needs now.
“I’ve seen her leadership firsthand,” Bass said in a tweet. “Her work in a divided administration to secure billions of dollars in COVID relief for underserved communities is just one example of the kind of principled and tenacious leadership she will bring to California as our next U.S. Senator.”
Bass’ decision on who to support in what is expected to be a hotly contested Senate race was closely watched after her victory in LA’s mayoral race last year, which propelled her to national prominence as the city’s first female mayor .
In 2020, Bass joined activists and other politicians in urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to nominate a black woman to replace Vice President Kamala Harris, who vacated her California Senate seat following her election as running mate of President Biden. In an interview with the Los Angeles Fox 11 affiliate at the time, Bass noted that with Harris’ departure, “there will be one African American Democrat, one African American Republican, no African American women” in the Senate.
“I’ll tell you I believe there should be an African-American woman in Congress,” Bass said. “I feel sorry for the governor. He’s in a great place. It’s a tough decision to make.”
Newsom instead chose then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the post, making him the first Latino politician to represent California in the Senate, but the governor promised to nominate a black woman if another Senate vacancy arose .
However, Feinstein plans to remain in office until the end of her term, leaving the decision on who should succeed her in the hands of California voters rather than the governor.
When Bass later ran for mayor, Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were regulars on the campaign trail. After Bass won, Harris swore in the former congresswoman as the city’s first female mayor and only the second black mayor.
Earlier this month, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who is close to Bass — supported Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) in the Senate race. Schiff supported Bass last year and campaigned alongside her in the final days before the November election.
Lee trailed Schiff and another congressional colleague in the Senate race, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), in a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. The inquiry was conducted after Lee discussed her intention to participate, but before officially announcing her offer.
Schiff had the support of 22% of registered voters polled, compared to 20% who supported Porter and 6% who supported Lee. A majority of voters said they had not yet decided on a candidate, so the race still has plenty of room to shift before the March 2024 primary.
Lee said she was grateful for Bass’s support and excited to be working with her to help people living on the edge.
“Mayor Bass’s work to serve Californians – as a councilman and congressman, and now as mayor – breaking monumental barriers in the process has been an inspiration to me and so many others. I am honored that she is supporting my campaign,” Lee said.
Lee stopped by Los Angeles City Hall last Thursday for the ceremonial swearing in of new state comptroller Malia Cohen. While standing in the roundabout lobby, she was asked about the prospects of her candidacy.
“I just launched my campaign two days ago,” said Lee, adding that she felt “good” about the race.
Noting that she is an alumni of San Fernando High School, she said she would campaign for statewide votes in the coming year.
“I’m going to vote for everything,” Lee said.