The Democratic circling of the wagons for Rep. Karen Bass is complete.
Former President Obama on Saturday endorsed the congresswoman in her bid to become the first woman and second black mayor of America’s second largest city.
His endorsement helps add weight to Bass’s campaign argument that she is the only true Democrat in the race and that her opponent, Rick Caruso, has become one of political advantage.
That was a central line of attack from Bass, who pointed out that her opponent was already registered as a Republican in 2019. Caruso said the GOP had shifted and become too extreme, which is why he switched parties weeks before announcing his candidacy early. this year.
“I know Karen. She has been with me supporting my campaign from the beginning and Karen Bass will deliver,” said former President Obama, who also recorded a robocall in support of Bass that will begin Sunday. “Make no mistake, there is only one proven Democrat in this race, and Karen Bass has dedicated her life to serving her community.”
With the robocall and digital video, Obama’s endorsement adds to a string of endorsements from national Democratic figures, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, both of California’s senators and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It comes after a nearly 2,000-strong rally Bass held Thursday night alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who remains hugely popular among progressives in the city.
“I’m asking you to work as hard as you can in the next 12 days to elect Karen and other progressives,” he told the Playa Vista crowd. “But I’m asking you to come back the day after the election and continue to fight for the economic justice we deserve in America.”
Earlier this month, Bass appeared with Harris and Biden at follow-up events. Since the primaries, nearly every city and state that has elected officials has endorsed her — though not Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is friends with both Caruso and Bass and has said he would not endorse either. He also shares a team of political advisers with Caruso.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also stayed out of the controversy, citing former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s decision not to endorse in the 2013 mayoral race.
It’s unclear whether any of those recommendations alone will have an impact on the competition, which appears to be tightening based on public and private polling reviewed by The Times.
The Times’ most recent poll in September found Bass leading by about 25 percentage points among registered Democratic voters and nearly 40 points among likely voters who are registered Democrats.
“President Obama’s support underscores the contrast in this race and inspires our campaign as we share our plans to solve homelessness and make LA safer and more accessible for everyone during the home stretch,” Bass said.
Still, Obama’s endorsement comes as a bit of a surprise, if only because The Times reported a few months ago that he was unlikely to make it to local elections. Obama and Bass are “not particularly close,” a person close to Obama said in June, adding that he has not generally gotten involved in Democratic races “and would not anticipate a deviation under these circumstances.”
In recent months, Obama’s political team has been monitoring the race and communicating with former presidential aides and others who worked on his presidential campaign and are now involved in the mayoral race, according to sources familiar with the matter who declined to be named. talk about private dealings.
They include Doug Herman, who advises Bass, Larry Grisolano, who produces Bass’ paid media, and former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, who doesn’t work on the campaign but is helping Bass debate prep by playing Caruso.
Obama has endorsed candidates in a number of high-profile Senate and gubernatorial races in recent weeks.
“I think everybody could see that this race is getting competitive and paying attention to the races that matter,” said one source familiar with the matter, who declined to be named to discuss the private negotiations. “I feel like the president didn’t want this race to be about who has the biggest checkbook.”