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Karen Bass
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 37th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded by Diane Watson (33rd)
Laura Richardson (37th)
Succeeded by Henry Waxman (33rd)
Constituency 33rd district (2011–2013)
37th district (2013–present)
67th Speaker of the California Assembly
In office
May 13, 2008 – March 1, 2010
Preceded by Fabian Núñez
Succeeded by John Pérez
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 47th district
In office
December 6, 2004 – December 6, 2010
Preceded by Herb Wesson
Succeeded by Holly Mitchell
Personal details
Karen Ruth Bass

(1953-10-03) October 3, 1953 (age 68)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jesus Lechuga (1980–1986)
Children 1 daughter
4 stepchildren
Education San Diego State University
California State University, Dominguez Hills (BS)
University of Southern California (MSW)

Karen Ruth Bass (born October 3, 1953) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 37th congressional district since 2013. A Democrat, she previously represented the 33rd congressional district from 2011 to 2013.

Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010. She served as the 67th Speaker of the California Assembly (2008–2010), and was the second woman and the third African American to be Speaker. Since 2019, Bass has also served as the chair of the Black Congressional Caucus.

Bass was a possible candidate to become Joe Biden's vice-presidential running mate in the 2020 election.

Early life, education, and medical career

Bass was born in Los Angeles, California. Her parents were Wilhelmina (née Duckett) and DeWitt Talmadge Bass. Her father was a letter carrier. She was raised in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood and went to Hamilton High School. She studied philosophy at San Diego State University (1971–1973). Then, she got a B.S. in health sciences from California State University, Dominguez Hills (1990).

Bass worked as a physician assistant and as a clinical instructor at the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. Bass also founded Community Coalition, an organization in South Los Angeles. Later on, in 2015, Bass earned a Master's degree in social work from the University of Southern California (USC).

California Assembly

As the Assemblymember for the 37th district, Bass served the cities and communities of Culver City, West Los Angeles, Westwood, Cheviot Hills, Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, View Park-Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, the Crenshaw District, Little Ethiopia and parts of Koreatown and South Los Angeles.


She was a part of Barack Obama's national African American Leadership Council. She also served as a california co-chair of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Speaker Fabian Núñez appointed Bass California State Assembly Majority Whip (2005–2006) and Majority Floor Leader for the 2007–2008 legislative session. She was chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care and vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, she ordered a report to research the basic demographic profile of black californians. The report included their basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve black californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

After the defeat of Proposition 93, Speaker Fabian Núñez left the Assembly at the end of the 2007-2008 session because of term limits. As the next-highest-ranking Democrat in the Assembly, Bass was in a good position to take the role. After gaining the support of some other Legislators who had also been seeking the Speakership, Bass was elected Speaker on February 28, 2008 and then sworn in as Speaker on May 13.

After she left the Speaker's office, Bass was named Speaker Emeritus.

U.S. House of Representatives



Bass could not run for reelection in the California Assembly 2010 due to term limits. On February 18, 2010, she confirmed that she would run to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Diane Watson in California's 33rd congressional district. Bass won the election with over 86% of the vote, beating Republican James Andion on November 2, 2010.


In 2012 she had no primary opponent, and won the general election with 86%. She raised $692,988.53 and spent $803,966.15, leaving $52,384.92 on hand and a debt of $3,297.59.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on the Judiciary
    • Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
    • Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights (Chair)
    • Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Caucus memberships

  • American Sikh Congressional Caucus
  • Congressional Black Caucus
  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
  • United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus

2020 U.S. presidential election

In July 2020, Bass was discussed as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Political positions

Bass is generally considered a liberal, with ratings of 100% or close from liberal interest group capitol Weekly Positions. Conservative groups like the California Republican Assembly Positions have consistently awarded her a 0%.

Bass is a very strong supporter of gun control. Her National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund Lifetime Score is an F. The Gun Owners of California Positions on Gun Rights have also given Bass an F. Congresswoman Bass recently has voted against the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act that would reduce general gun control laws. In 2010, while campaigning for Congress Bass supported the expanded firearm registration bill. That bill, with other rules, would have made all gun dealers report their sales to the Department of Justice.

Bass has spoken against President Trump's national emergency declaration in 2019.

Bass, once considered a social liberal, has seen her ratings go down with LGBT organizations. She once had a 100% rating with the Human Rights Campaign but now ranks below most Democrats with a score of 88%. She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Personal life

From 1980 to 1986, Bass was married to Jesus Lechuga. Following their divorce, Bass and Lechuga raised their daughter and four stepchildren together.

Bass suffered the death of her only child, daughter Emilia Wright, and her son-in-law Michael Wright, in a car accident in 2006.

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