U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Tuesday that he would be running for a full-term in the Senate this year, a decision that most political experts have been expecting for months.
Padilla, who had previously served in the Los Angeles City Council 1999 to 2006, and the State Senate 2006 to 2014, was serving out his most recent term as California Secretary of state in 2020 when then-Senator Kamala Harris was elected as Vice President. Looking for a diverse and non-controversial pick to fill out Harris’ Senate term, Governor Gavin Newsom chose Padilla in December 2020, with Padilla sworn in the following month.
Padilla quickly engaged in controversy out of the gate. While Latino political leaders praised California’s first Latino Senator, many black political leaders denounced the decision due to Padilla effectively not replacing one of the few black female Senate voices.
However, in his 13 months in the Senate, Padilla has proven to be largely middle-of-the-road. While not an outspoken progressive, Padilla has generally sided with Democrats on votes and has been vocal on issues such as immigration and voting rights. And, despite making the occasional outlandish remark, like complaining that all states get the same number of Senators, he has largely steered clear of controversy that has plagued fellow California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in recent years, particularly concerning her age and mental faculties.
Polls have shown that Padilla is also something of an inoffensive candidate. According to a UC Berkeley poll released last week, Feinstein’s numbers have been tanking considerably, with approval being below 30% and disapproval at 49%. A wide array of demographics, from Republican to under 40, to Latino to LA area voters, all share the same disapproval sentiment against her. Meanwhile Padilla has a 34% positive viewing by Californians, 26% negative, and 40% no opinion according to recent polls. While not spectacular, it does show more voters likely favoring Padilla in an election, especially compared to Feinstein.
A full-term run for Padilla
With voters generally approving of Padilla, and support from the large Latino voting bloc, the Senator filed to run for reelection on Tuesday at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office in Norwalk. In a short speech, Padilla vowed to continue supporting policies such as President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan and to help immigrant families and expressed that that he isn’t convinced that Republicans will take over Congress come November.
“As proud as I am of the work that’s been done in the first year in the Senate, from the American Rescue Plan to the bi-partisan infrastructure package, there is a lot more work to do,” said Senator Padilla on Tuesday. “I think I have an important voice to bring to the U.S. Senate. A proud son of immigrants, growing up in a working-class community, graduated from public schools and now one of the few in the United States Senate to enact policies. I think between now and November, Democrats have a story to tell. I’m not convinced that we’re going to lose a majority this November. I think we have a good chance of keeping, of not growing our majority.”
Padilla’s entry in the 2022 California Senator race immediately made him the frontrunner, as the next closest candidates in terms of funding and support, Democratic media company CEO Chris Theodore and Republican attorney Mark Meuser, are nowhere near Padilla. Funding, for example, had Padilla with $7.8 million in donations at the end of December, with Theodore only managing to raise $232,000 and Meuser $158,000. The entrance of other skilled politicians, most notable former Assemblyman and State Board of Equalization member Jerome Horton may temper Padilla’s chances later this year. However, as the sitting incumbent and with monetary and political support in the form of endorsements, Padilla is the man to beat this year.
“It’s been one of the quieter races this year,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz to the Globe on Tuesday. “You have tight House races, a Gubernatorial, several recalls of major positions, and also important regional elections like LA Mayor. Padilla has flown under the radar with the GOP not sending out an experienced candidate, at least not yet, and Democrats not really showing much interest at anyone besides Padilla. It’s his to lose. He’s been inoffensive but unspectacular, but is also considered a guy to lead a solid victory for the Democrats this year. And for the Dems, that is good enough for them when it comes to Padilla. If he can keep a Senate seat in the mid-terms for them, they’ll support him.”
Other candidates may enter the race soon to challenge Padilla in the primary this June.