Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., is starting to generate buzz as a sleeper pick to snag a spot on the leadership ladder or even possibly become speaker if Democrats win the House.
Her emergence as a potential party leader, cited by several Democratic officials in discussions with NBC News, comes as many Democrats are jockeying for position in the wake of Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley’s loss and amid a string of declarations from lawmakers and candidates that they won’t back Nancy Pelosi in the next party elections,
The 64-year-old Bass, now in her fourth term, is a former speaker of the California Assembly and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. While it’s unlikely she could win the support of all Californians, African-Americans and women in a competitive contest, that trifecta is a heck of a pool of possible supporters to start with in a Democratic leadership election.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said the sky’s the limit if Bass decides to throw her hat in the ring once the midterms shake out.
“My view is that she would be an excellent Democratic Leader, meaning if we take the majority to be the speaker,” said Higgins, a white Democrat from Buffalo who worked closely with Bass on a plan to rewrite Democratic caucus rules. In any event, he said, her experience as the leader of a state assembly, her acumen as a legislator and her ability to negotiate the shoals of interpersonal relationships in the House, should put her on the “short list” in any conversation about leadership in the next Congress.
Right now, Democrats don’t know whether they’ll be filling out a leadership roster in the majority or the minority and whether any or all of the current top leaders — Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. — will remain in power.
For the most part, hopefuls are focused on the caucus chairmanship that Crowley will be vacating. Two other California Democrats, Linda Sanchez and Barbara Lee, are part of those discussions. Sanchez has announced she’ll run for the post.