How attacks on Karen Bass could help her become LA’s new mayor

Not so long ago, Melina Abdullah and Patrisse Cullors, two of the early leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, had harsh words for their friend and colleague Angeleno Rep. Karen Bass.

As a mayoral candidate, Bass had just released her first public safety plan. Abdullah and Cullors took a look at his call to replenish the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department and said Bass was putting “targets on black people’s backs,” recalling a “1994-style pro-police crime-bill-style”. system.”

Additionally, they warned that “bowing to affluent white Westside and Valley voters at the expense of black, Latinx, and working class voters” could cost Bass a base “she cannot afford to lose.” “.

Many left-wing activists agreed with their LA Progressive essay, vowing not to vote for her. Pushed bass, of course.

But, fast forward a few months, and it’s not the congresswoman who’s most likely to change her mind, but the union that represents LAPD rank-and-file officers.

Consider it an unintended side effect of the union’s decision — the powerful Los Angeles Police Protection League — to sponsor nearly $2 million in campaign television ads, all attacking Bass.

You may have seen the first, which started streaming this week.

He insinuates that Bass is guilty of the same kind of quid pro quo corruption that his ally, former Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, has been accused of — and denied — in a federal case involving USC. She is not.

A group of black pastors and several others have already complained about the ad and its racial imagery. On Tuesday, the Bass campaign described it as “false, misleading and defamatory” and demanded that it be taken off the air.

A spokesperson for the police union’s political action committee, misleadingly named Neighbors for a Safer, Cleaner LA, hit back, telling the Times, “Bass doesn’t want the public to know the facts behind this shady deal before this election.”

Unfortunately, all this back and forth misses a much more important point, much more important.

And it’s that LAPD officers apparently view Bass becoming mayor as so awful — and yet so likely if she enters a runoff with their favorite candidate, billionaire developer Rick Caruso — that they’re willing to break the bank for stop it. And, so far, only her.

I hope this point will not be lost on progressive activists who are suspicious of the LAPD. Especially after Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino dropped out of the race Thursday and endorsed Caruso, given the two shared many of the same hardline stances on homelessness and public safety.

Of course, we’re talking about Bass, who bristles at the mere suggestion that she’s always wanted to ‘defund’ the police, and who insists that black and Latino voters want more officers in neighborhoods — just respectful. , responsible, well trained ones.

But it’s clear the MP is not the bearer of the “Crime Bill 1994-style pro-police system” that she purports to be.

Indeed, the police union spending so much money to eliminate Bass – a full month before the field is narrowed to two candidates – could prove to be the quickest way to gain more support for her among skeptical progressives, especially black progressives.

Even earlier this month, it didn’t seem possible.

Many progressives were still angry at the way the police dragged Abdullah out of the last televised Cal State Los Angeles mayoral debate and the way the candidates, who were standing on stage at the time, didn’t said nothing and did nothing.

Abdullah singled out Bass, calling his silence particularly hurtful.

Bass has since condemned the incident, which was videotaped, and said she couldn’t see what was going on: “I had no idea who was being fired.” But Abdullah, who was already unhappy with Bass’ plan to hire more cops, described what happened as a breaking point for her as a black progressive.

“She might not get our votes in the primary in June,” Abdullah told me late last week. “She won’t get my vote.”


The days of Angelenos electing politicians solely on the basis of race and ethnicity identity politics are long gone.

Bass, who has long represented the historically black and increasingly Latino neighborhoods of South LA, hopes to become the second black mayor of Los Angeles after Tom Bradley, who held the position from 1973 to 1993.

But we are in 2022.

“When Tom Bradley ran for mayor, black politics in Los Angeles was brand new,” said longtime political consultant and lawyer Dermot Givens.

Not all of his black supporters liked each other, but, with a strong base of liberal white voters, Bradley “had everyone because they wanted the opportunity to have a black mayor,” Givens said. “[With] Karen running, it’s quite obvious that she doesn’t have everyone.

According to the latest poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and The Times, Bass had the support of only about half of likely black voters polled, plus 40% of white liberals.

Black voters make up just under 1 in 10 of the city’s likely voters, while white liberals — among the city’s largest voting blocs — make up about 3 in 10.

“It’s extremely important to have a very diverse coalition — racially diverse, ideologically diverse, geographically diverse,” Bass told me. “It’s very important to me because it’s consistent with the way I’ve lived my life.”

If anything, this mayoral race is shaping up to be defined by money more than anything else. Which is fitting for a city increasingly defined by haves and have-nots, by extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

Most polls predict that Bass and Caruso will be the ones to make it through next month’s primary to face off in November.

The coming bombardment of ad dollars, with attack ad after TV attack ad trying to undermine Bass and, by extension, boost Caruso, will only amplify the momentum of the mayoral race.

It will be the rich and powerful against the less rich, the poor and the powerless.

On one side will be hard-on-crime Caruso, who has spent nearly $30 million on his own campaign, and the police union, through his PAC, spending free to fight for him.

On the other side, there will be Bass, coalition builder, positioned as the defender of all the others.

“If it’s between her and Rick Caruso,” Abdullah told me, no doubt echoing the predilections of many progressives worried about the underprivileged in Los Angeles, “I won’t vote for Rick Caruso.”

Nothing like spending a few million dollars on advertising to remind everyone why.

Los Angeles Times

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