Saturday, June 19

From Outsider to Insider: Karen Bass’s Unexpected Journey to Power

Ms. Bass said she had made a mistake calling Castro “Comandante en Jefe,” a description widely detested by Cuban exiles. “Wouldn’t do that again,” she said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Talked immediately to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was something that just shouldn’t have been said.”

She said she had gone to Cuba to help the Cuban people by building houses and later to recruit doctors for the United States. “Now, that doesn’t excuse the fact that I know the Castro regime has been a brutal regime to its people,” she said.

Chapters of her career that might have gone unnoticed, even as the leader of the Assembly or a prominent member of Congress, are now coming to the forefront with the scrutiny that comes with being a potential candidate for vice president.

In one example, Ms. Bass spoke effusively about the Church of Scientology, the organization scrutinized over cultlike practices and alleged abuse of members, at the opening of its world headquarters in Los Angeles in 2010. Over the weekend, she tweeted a statement explaining why she had attended (it was a big project in her district) and added, “Just so you all know, I proudly worship at First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA.”

Back in her days as a street organizer, she had never thought about running for office — not for the Assembly, not for speaker and not for Congress.

And certainly not for vice president.

“Oh God, no!” she said. “There isn’t anything in my background that would make you think that I was planning to run for office, period.”

As Mr. Biden closes in on making his choice, Ms. Bass has become a classic inside player, calling party leaders, giving interviews and joining Mr. Biden for a virtual fund-raiser where, in a preview of sorts, she attacked Mr. Trump. Yet she never forgot the lessons she learned in those first days as Assembly speaker.

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