‘Community has always been No. 1’: LA mayor candidate Karen Bass visits Historic Filipinotown

(L-R) Jessica Caloza, Grace Barrios, Rep. Karen Bass, Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, and Jocelyn Geaga-Rose pose at Temple Seafood Market at the end of a Jeepney tour around Historic Filipinotown. | AJPress photo by Klarize Medenilla

Bass meets Filipino American community leaders

LESS than a week before the contentious general election in which Los Angeles residents will be electing a new leader, mayoral candidate Karen Bass is confident that her decades-long experience in public office would breathe new life into city leadership.

The race between Bass and her opponent, real estate magnate Rick Caruso (a lifelong Republican who is running under the Democratic Party) has heat up in the last stretch of the election season, with both candidates emphasizing homelessness, housing, public safety, and civic ethics in their respective campaigns.

As the mayoral race tightens up, Bass and her supporters are putting in their last-ditch efforts to expound on something they’ve emphasized since Bass announced her candidacy in Sept. 2021: the 69-year-old congresswoman’s longstanding dedication to community continues to be one of her strengths, she said.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) meets with members of the Filipino American community in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles. | AJPress photo by Klarize Medenilla

“Community has always been No. 1 for me. [Public service] has been my whole life,” Bass told the Asian Journal during a campaign event with the Pilipino American LA Democrats (PALAD) in Historic Filipinotown on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The recent leaked tapes of three city councilmembers — Gil Cedillo, Kevin de Leon, and Nury Martinez (who had endorsed Bass) — making incendiary remarks against the Black, gay, Oaxacan, and Jewish communities has rocked the city. The tapes have also led to a distrust with local leaders among residents, but Bass was quick to condemn Cedillo, de Leon and Martinez for their comments.

Bass said that after the tapes were released, she and her team met with representatives of different ethnic groups that were “disparaged on those tapes” and brainstormed ways in which to reform city leadership to make it more equitable.

“There is inequity that exists in our city. Why is it that on one side of town, the city looks like one thing, and on the other side of town, there’s less resources,” Bass said.

“One thing I would bring to office is a long, long history of bringing communities together,” she added. “I’ve spent a good part of my life working in solidarity with other communities, which is why I have long relationships with the Filipino community.”

Back in the 1970s, as a college student, Bass said she became aware of the growing resentment toward the regime of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. She learned more about the human rights atrocities that came out of martial law and joined Filipino students in their international protests against the Marcos dictatorship.

Bass’s political career began in 2004 when she was elected to the California Assembly, representing the South LA and Mid City areas of LA; later, she was appointed Speaker of the California State Assembly. Her career with the House of Representatives began in 2011, serving nearly the same areas as she did in the California Assembly.

“She is the only one who can restore our city,” Grace Barrios, vice president of Labor Relations at PALAD, told the Asian Journal. “She really has been with [the Filipino community] and today shows she really wants to learn more from us and give us a voice.”

So far, Bass has received endorsements from top liberals, including Presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Local polls say that Bass is leading against Caruso as of press time, but it’s still anyone’s race as both candidates continue to court the city’s diverse electorate. As a real estate developer, Caruso’s powerful connections and celebrity endorsements within the city has made his spotlight brighter.

So far, his campaign has spent more than $88 million — most of which was funded by Caruso himself — while Bass has received about $8 million in political contributions, according to the LA Ethics Commission.

While Caruso’s campaign has emphasized his financial and personal success, Bass has been running on something different: her knowledge of community activism and policy working with communities rather than just for them, she said.

Rather than making sweeping changes across the city, she said she plans to learn about all the different neighborhoods and see what works for them to tackle homelessness, public health and safety.

Bass admires the Filipinos represented in the sprawling Unidad Park mural in Historic Filipinotown. | AJPress photo by Klarize Medenilla

Describing the mural of Filipino historical leaders at Unidad Park, Bass told the Asian Journal, “That’s why this mural means a lot to me: I know that history. I think that’s what distinguishes me from my opponent who has no such history that way. He has a history of creating tremendous wealth for him and his family and giving to charity — which is laudable — but I’ve spent my life working in communities and bringing folks together because I understand that when we work together, we are much more powerful.”

The midterm elections are on Tuesday, Nov. 8. n

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

The Filipino-American Community Newspaper. Your News. Your Community. Your Journal. Since 1991.

Copyright © 1991-2024 Asian Journal Media Group.
All Rights Reserved.