Karen Bass confirms candidacy for seat in Congress

Confirming speculation about her political plans, state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said she would seek the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Diane Watson, who appeared with Bass at a Los Angeles news conference Wednesday to give the speaker her endorsement.

“This is a very, very humbling moment,” Bass told community leaders and supporters who joined her outside her Mid-Wilshire-area office. “I am so proud to announce I’m going to throw my hat into the ring.” If elected, Bass said, she’ll have “very big shoes to fill.”

Karen Bass candidacy: An article in Thursday’s LATExtra section on Assembly Speaker Karen Bass announcing her candidacy for Rep. Diane Watson’s congressional seat said Bass was among those who took formal steps to run before Watson announced her plans to retire. Bass was not among that group. —

Watson, who announced last week that she would not run for reelection after 35 years in public office, said she was pleased to back Bass.

“I 100% -- maybe 300% -- endorse Karen Bass,” said Watson, 76, whose Los Angeles-area 33rd Congressional District is among the most diverse in the nation.

Watson praised Bass as a “tried and true” leader and promised to “do everything I can to see that Karen Bass” succeeds her.

About three dozen local leaders and supporters attended the news conference, a diverse group that included Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, UCLA labor center director Kent Wong and USC American studies & ethnicity professor Manuel Pastor.

The strongly Democratic district has long been represented by African Americans, but political observers say it is increasingly important for candidates there to demonstrate that they can forge broad coalitions. Many believe Bass, 56, an African American who must leave the Assembly this year because of term limits, can build on her ties with labor and her community-organizing background.

Before Watson announced her retirement, Bass and five other candidates, mostly political unknowns, had taken formal steps to run, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s office.

The others are perennial candidate Mervin L. Evans and Deputy Los Angeles City Atty. Felton Newell, both Democrats, and three Republicans: James L. Andion, an attorney; David C. Crowley II, a community college student; and Phil Jennerjahn, an entertainer.

The filing period closes March 12. It was unclear Wednesday whether others would try to take on Bass, who made history two years ago when she became the first black woman in the U.S. to head a state legislative body.