Betty Karnette, former state senator and assemblywoman who represented Long Beach, San Pedro, dies at 90

A former state senator and assemblywoman — who represented Long Beach, the cities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and San Pedro through much of the 1990s and early 2000s — has died. She was 89.

Betty Karnette, a Kentucky native who moved to Long Beach with her husband in the 1950s and lived there for nearly 70 years, died several days shy of her 90th birthday.

Karnette, who had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Long Beach, was a longtime LAUSD teacher before retiring and getting into politics.

I am sorry to report that former Senator Betty Karnette has passed.

She led an extraordinary life. She was a trailblazer for women and a fierce advocate for her constituents, workers, and public education. She will be remembered for her wit and sincerity. May she Rest In Peace. https://t.co/cggnUNrOBa

— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) September 8, 2021

Karnette, a Democrat, served in the state Assembly from 1992 to 1994, and then in the state Senate from 1996 to 2004. After that, she returned to the Assembly from 2004 to 2008.

“She’s going to be missed because she gave a lot of herself,” said Carmen O. Perez, a former vice chair of the Democratic Party and a friend of Karnette’s. “This was her city.”

Perez started working with Karnette in the late 1960s, she said. Karnette, Perez said, was passionate about education, voting and equality. The two, along with other local Democrats, spent many nights in Karnette’s home strategizing elections, mailing out brochures or calling potential voters.

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The two remained close until Karnette died; Perez planned to attend her birthday celebration, which was set for Sunday, Sept. 12, a day before Karnette would have turned 90.

“I always could count on her,” she said. “She walked the talk.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who lives in San Pedro, tweeted Thursday morning, Sept. 8, that Karnette was in the intensive care unit at Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center, in Long Beach. A couple of hours later, Hahn tweeted that the former state senator had died.

“She led an extraordinary life,” Hahn said. “She was a trailblazer for women and a fierce advocate for her constituents, workers, and public education. She will be remembered for her wit and sincerity.”

This story is breaking and will be updated. 

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