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2 veteran strategists depart consultant roles with Karen Bass’ mayoral campaign

Karen Bass surrounded by signs supporting her for mayor.
Rep. Karen Bass speaks to supporters at Los Angeles Trade Tech College in October at the kickoff to her campaign for mayor.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly three months after U.S. Rep. Karen Bass launched her bid for mayor, two veteran Democratic political strategists have left their consultant positions with the campaign.

Parke Skelton, who was working with the Bass campaign when it launched in late September, said Wednesday afternoon that he departed about a week ago. He declined to say why, or who made the decision.

Steve Barkan, the other strategist working as a consultant with the campaign when it launched, has also left that role.

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Barkan — who has a long history with Bass, having consulted on her first Assembly and congressional races — said he was “still volunteering” for Bass and noted that he had never had a contract with the campaign.

He declined to comment on the circumstances around the transition, which he described as “obviously amicable” given his continued involvement.

“It is unusual. That’s not the norm generally, but people have all kinds of arrangements,” longtime political strategist Eric Hacopian said of the departures. Hacopian doesn’t represent anyone in the 2022 mayor’s race.

Skelton’s wife, Alison Morgan, who had been doing fundraising in Los Angeles for the Bass campaign, has also departed, according to Skelton.

The race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti — Los Angeles’ first open mayoral contest in nearly a decade — has begun to heat up in the months since Bass joined the race, with two candidate forums in the last week. A long list of candidates, including City Atty. Mike Feuer, City Councilmen Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino, business leader Jessica Lall and real estate agent Mel Wilson will appear on the June primary ballot.

With the election eight months away, voters are finally getting a clearer picture of the June 2022 contest to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“We were especially fortunate to have Parke Skelton, Alison Morgan and others come out of partial retirement for our first few months; their expertise and instincts have been invaluable,” Bass campaign manager Jamarah Hayner said in a statement, adding that “we’re so grateful to everyone who jumped in to help launch this historic campaign.”

Hayner also confirmed that Barkan was no longer with the campaign in an official capacity.

This is not the first set of personnel moves in the Bass campaign: Los Angeles fundraiser Lisa Cassinis left the campaign before Morgan was brought on.

Hayner confirmed to The Times in October that Cassinis had departed but declined to expand on the circumstances, saying in a statement that “we made some adjustments in our finance staff to accommodate the tremendous local and national support for Karen.”

Speaking this week, Hayner said the campaign had a “consistent finance team,” noting that Shari Yost Gold and Amanda Bailey had both been leading the campaign’s national fundraising for about two months, with Bailey now transitioning into a finance director role for both local and national fundraising.

Barkan worked for Skelton at his firm SG&A Campaigns before starting his own firm, Barkan Strategies, in 2018. Both consultants are well-known in local and state politics.

A 2001 Times story described Skelton as “the go-to guy for liberal local and state candidates,” noting that he sometimes works for candidates pro bono if he believes their politics are sufficiently progressive.

Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.


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