Kamala Harris, once Karen Bass’ rival for vice presidency, offers support in mayor’s race

Vice President Kamala Harris hugs mayoral candidate Karen Bass
Vice President Kamala Harris greets Rep. Karen Bass before a discussion on protecting reproductive rights Monday at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

For some Los Angeles voters, a packed room in Mid-City was a place of affirmation and reinvigorated focus Monday amid a scandal that’s fractured City Hall and fueled racial tensions ahead of the mayoral election.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris for a moderated discussion with Celinda Vázquez, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, about the fight for reproductive rights, the fears felt by women across the U.S. and the country’s place on the international stage as a moral lodestar.

An audience of at least 200 people greeted the women with a standing ovation at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center as “Hail, Columbia,” the entrance march of the vice president, played.


Bass and Harris embraced and showered each other with praise — lending political support in a high-stakes election season after they were once pitted against each other as possible vice presidential candidates.

“You and I have worked together for so many years, when I was [California attorney general] and you were at the Capitol, the state Capitol, and then in Washington, D.C.,” Harris said of Bass, who is facing developer Rick Caruso in next month’s L.A. mayoral election. “You are a courageous, fearless fighter on so many of these issues, and in particular, what you have done throughout your career to be a strong voice for women, for children, for all communities, for the coalition.”

Rick Caruso and Karen Bass are running for Los Angeles mayor. Here is your guide to the race.

Nov. 11, 2022

Jasmine Hernandez, 21, said Bass has a track record of fighting for people’s rights and working to bring unity — attributes that are all the more important in the wake of a leaked recording that captured then-L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez making racist remarks.

The audio, which remained private for nearly a year, broke to the surface Oct. 9, roiling City Hall and reigniting tensions in Black and brown communities around the city.

Martinez resigned from her seat days later, but Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, the two other council members present for the wide-ranging conversation with Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, have so far refused to step down, fueling further outrage.

Hernandez said she believes Bass can bridge that divide.

“So I’m really all for her and stand behind her. And I hope she wins,” she said as she waited for Harris, Bass and Vázquez to take the stage.


Although the mayor of Los Angeles may not wield much power on the issue of abortion, Hernandez said Bass’ advocacy for abortion access remains crucial.

“L.A. is one of the biggest cities in California and in the United States, and there’s a really big opportunity here for L.A. to lead,” she said. “Even though there are a lot of decisions that she can have a stance on but can’t necessarily have a direct effect on, she’s a public figure, she definitely can influence people.”

And the leaked audio scandal is a reminder that not all Democrats are alike, Hernandez said — a point she believes is true in the mayoral race as well.

“Someone can be labeled a Democrat on paper, it doesn’t mean that behind closed doors they’re having those honest conversations. And I think Karen Bass is definitely genuine about the fact that she is a Democrat and behind closed doors, she’s fighting for our rights, versus someone who wants to run for mayor and will just change their label,” Hernandez said, alluding to Caruso, who was previously a Republican and had “no party preference” before registering as a Democrat.

The billionaire developer still trails by double digits among likely voters, but the race has tightened significantly since August.

Oct. 2, 2022

Emily Piñeda, 22, said she wants to see Bass continue to push for women, people of color and other marginalized groups as mayor.

She “has been in L.A. in the real parts of it, and not just the rich parts, and representing us for four decades,” Piñeda said.

Diana Chavez, 23, wanted “an update” from Harris on federal efforts to protect the nation’s reproductive rights.

“I’m thankful that our governor of California has been … able to provide services for our Californians,” but there still needs to be action on a national level, Chavez said.

She intends to vote for Bass for mayor and told The Times that Bass is “the only candidate that mainly aligns with my values as a woman, my values as a woman of color.”

And she sees her decision to vote for Bass in November as a long-term investment in protecting access to abortion.

“Because later on, who knows who she might run with or, in the future, she might be someone bigger,” Chavez said. “Maybe the next president of the United States?”