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Rep. Karen Bass is planning a run for L.A. mayor in 2022, sources say

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U.S. Rep Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) intends to launch a campaign for Los Angeles mayor, joining a field of candidates that has rapidly grown over the past week, according to three people familiar with her plans.

Such a move would deliver another shakeup to a contest that had been a sleepy affair for much of the year. Bass, a high-profile Democrat who has served in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., could announce her entry into the mayor’s race early as next week, those sources told The Times.

If Bass enters the race, she would be a formidable competitor, said Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who described himself as an ally of Bass since 1978.

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“Los Angeles is in need of leadership that can bring us together and that can inspire, and I think she is uniquely gifted in that way,” he said. “And it’s what I expect will become rather immediately apparent once she makes her announcement known.”

In some ways, a bid for citywide office could be a gamble for Bass, a popular politician on Capitol Hill who has been talked about as a potential candidate to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the House Speaker. She also has been in contention for a U.S. Senate seat and as a running mate for President Biden.

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Bass, 67, would trade her policy work at the national level for a potentially grueling yearlong competition to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti, one that could ultimately involve six or more high-profile candidates.

The mayor of Los Angeles has the authority to hire and fire department heads, select hundreds of city commissioners and propose sweeping policy changes. But much the power at City Hall rests with the 15-member City Council, which approves legislation, signs off on major contracts and approves large-scale real estate projects.

The campaign will play out just as the city is struggling to address a crisis of homelessness and housing affordability and attempting to recover from a devastating pandemic.

Asked about her intentions, Bass spokesman Zach Seidl highlighted those two challenges, saying in a text message that the city is facing “a humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis in the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Angelenos.”

“She does not want to see these two issues tear the city apart. Los Angeles has to come together. That’s why the Congresswoman is considering a run for mayor,” Seidl said.

Bass represents a district that takes in all or parts of South Los Angeles, Mid-City, Culver City and Palms. She would join a field of candidates that include City Atty. Mike Feuer, City Councilmen Kevin De León and Joe Buscaino, business leaders Jessica Lall and real estate broker Mel Wilson.

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Two others, real estate developer Rick Caruso and former L.A. Unified schools Supt. Austin Beutner, have been exploring a mayoral bid.

Bass’s campaign plans were reported earlier by the Washington Post. The parlor game surrounding Bass’s intentions — whether she would enter the contest and if so when — has been going on for weeks.

At one point on Friday, a reporter for Politico tweeted that he overheard the congresswoman disclose her upcoming mayoral campaign, telling someone on a phone call: “I’m going to officially announce a run for mayor.”

The mayoral primary is set for June, with a runoff election in November 2022. Garcetti, who was recently nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to India, can’t run again because of term limits.

Times staff writer Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report.

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