On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) to fill the newly vacant position of Secretary of State of California.
Governor Newsom’s decision came only hours after he made the post vacant by selecting the soon-to-be former Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, to fill out Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) term as Senator due to her elevation to the Vice Presidency this coming January. Weber’s appointment will make her the first African-American Secretary of State in California’s history.
Originally from Arkansas, Weber moved to the Los Angeles-area when she was young and graduated from UCLA in 1970, eventually earning a doctorate there in 1975. She then proceeded to become an African-American studies professor at San Diego State University for 40 years. During that time, she also entered politics, becoming a member, and later, president of the San Diego Board of Education from 1988 to 1996.
In 2011 she was tapped to run for an Assembly seat, eventually winning the 79th district seat in 2012. As an Assemblywoman, Weber has focused largely on education-related issues, highlighted by her constant push to create a state university in Chula Vista and a passed bill to make ethnic studies classes a requirement at all California State Universities, as well as minority-centric issues, such as her bills to study slavery reparations for African-Americans in California.
Newsom explained his decision in making her the state’s top elections officer in a Tweet on Tuesday.
“A fearless advocate with unimpeachable integrity and moral clarity — there’s no one better suited for the job of Secretary of State than Assemblywoman Shirley Weber,” tweeted Newsom. “With her, CA will continue to be a model for the nation in expanding democratic participation and access to the ballot box.”
A fearless advocate with unimpeachable integrity and moral clarity — there’s no one better suited for the job of Secretary of State than @AsmShirleyWeber.
With her, CA will continue to be a model for the nation in expanding democratic participation and access to the ballot box. pic.twitter.com/fcpuZuYQ8e
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 22, 2020
Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who had inspired Weber to run for Assembly, also noted her congratulations in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Congratulations to my friend & fellow San Diegan, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, on her historic appointment as California’s Secretary of State,” said Senator Atkins. “I know Sec. Weber will fight to protect our vital right to vote and help ensure the workings of state government are visible and accessible to all.”
A historic first, possible problems for Democrats in the coming years
However, many noted that this, likely due to Weber’s age, is more of a sunset post, and that her nomination was made to appease African-American’s who were upset that Newsom’s Senate pick was Padilla, a Hispanic man, and not an African-American woman to replace Senator Harris.
“The Democrats really want to avoid party clashes right now,” explained ‘Dana’, a state capitol worker in Sacramento, to the Globe. “Between Newsom’s picks causing a lot more anger than he would have liked, Newsom himself likely facing a recall next year, and 2022 elections, especially those for Secretary of State that have now been thrown off the rail due to Weber coming in, looking like it will have a lot of intra-party fighting, it’s not looking so hot.
“Weber is honestly not a bad decision, but everyone knows she was picked primarily to appease African-American legislators and black groups who have railed Newsom for choosing Padilla. Like it was, as one resident emailed our office today called it, one step away from nepotism.
“Today was a day of firsts and a win for a lot of Democrats and minorities, but today’s decisions will make a huge impact in 2022. Heck, next year as Weber’s seat is now open, and her district isn’t exactly solidly blue.”
Weber will need to be confirmed by both houses before she is to officially become Secretary of State. Assembly and Senate votes are expected in the coming weeks.
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