How Karen Bass prevailed against Rick Caruso’s $100-million campaign, and what it might mean going forward
When Karen Bass was elected to the state Senate in 2010, it was widely considered a sure thing. A Democratic recruit with a good political pedigree, and a campaign that had gone all the way to the Democratic convention in Los Angeles. A woman who had been a rising star in the California delegation to the United Nations, and had won a key slot on President Obama’s transition team.
There were skeptics, of course. But, most observers said, Bass would be a moderate moll who had a good chance of winning — at least in a statewide race.
“We don’t like her, and we don’t trust her, but we’re pretty certain she’ll be elected,” said a Sacramento-area pollster on election night.
But that was before Bass decided to raise $1 million online.
With another race just months away in her home county of Orange County, she had done something that her opponents would have found surprising. She was running a negative campaign with a super PAC.
After all, the race was a four-way contest for a job in the state Senate. And it had been a long slog to get there. In fact, it had taken the state Senate two whole years to elect a new committee chair in 2003.
But her campaign began with one thing above all: a $1 million online fund-raising push.
“She had done so much fundraising in the past that at first, it didn’t look like a race,” said Karen Bass, speaking to me in her office on election night in 2010.
“I called a handful of her supporters back on election night to share some of the good news — that we were close to the money and had a chance — but we weren’t necessarily expecting anything else at all,” said Bass, now a Democratic state assemblywoman,