California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to finish out Senator Kamala Harris’ tenure as U.S. Senator.
Padilla, a longtime ally of Newsom and other top Californian Democrats, will become the first Hispanic Senator in California’s history and the first non-Bay Area Senator in several decades. He will serve as Senator until 2022, when he will have to run for election.
Upon the announcement, Padilla tweeted out “I am humbled and honored to serve as California’s next United States Senator. Thank you, Gavin Newsom, for entrusting me with the role of defending the dream for the people of California.”
I am humbled and honored to serve as California’s next United States Senator. Thank you, @GavinNewsom, for entrusting me with the role of defending the dream for the people of California. https://t.co/bCwf05C3hm pic.twitter.com/Fn5iNl6ldS
— Alex Padilla (@AlexPadilla4CA) December 22, 2020
“I will work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all Californians,” added Padilla in a follow-up statement. “From those struggling to make ends meet to the small businesses fighting to keep their doors open to the health care workers looking for relief, please know that I am going to the Senate to fight for you. We will get through this pandemic together and rebuild our economy in a way that doesn’t leave working families behind.
“I’m honored, man, and I’m humbled, because of them.”
Governor Newsom, who made the pick, also sent a Tweet out, even showing the video of Padilla accepting the position.
“His appointment will make history,” tweeted Newsom. “But the Alex Padilla I know is far more interested in changing history — especially for the working men and women of our state and country. I can think of no one better to represent the state of California as our next United States Senator.”
His appointment will make history. But the @AlexPadilla4CA I know is far more interested in changing history — especially for the working men and women of our state and country.
I can think of no one better to represent the state of California as our next United States Senator. pic.twitter.com/xiAzpTS42Y
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 22, 2020
“Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings,” added the Governor in a statement. “He is a warrior for voting rights and the American Dream.
“Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in DC, lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic.”
The first Hispanic U.S. Senator in California, criticism of Newsom’s decision
Padilla, who is the son of Mexican immigrants, grew up in the Pacoima neighborhood of Los Angeles. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1995, he briefly worked as an engineer for Hughes aircraft before becoming an aide to Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). In the late 90’s he became a prolific campaign manager, helping get former Assemblymen Tony Cardenas and Gil Cedilo elected, as well as State Senator Richard Alcarcon.
Padilla himself ran in 1999 for a Los Angeles City Council slot. He won, becoming the first Hispanic to hold such a position in the city. In 2006 he ran for state Senate, winning once again and serving until 2014. In 2014 he ran for Secretary of State for California, and has served as such since 2015.
While many in California celebrated the selection on Tuesday, especially California’s Hispanic communities, Newsom’s selection of Padilla also led to many bemoaning the choice.
Padilla, who had long been rumored for the position, won out even with controversy over the seat. Black Caucus members in Washington, as well as many African-American leaders in California, had urged Gov. Newsom to pick a black woman such as Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) to fill the position. Otherwise, without Harris, there would be no African-American women in the Senate.
“Newsom just took this away from us,” Raini Thompson, the leader of an African-American activist group in Stockton said to the Globe. “We elected Harris, a black woman who served us here. Not some Latino guy. Newsom is essentially telling us that we don’t matter to him. That our choice doesn’t matter. That black issues, which Harris touted so much this year for us, doesn’t matter. We lost a prominent black leader with no one to fill it.”
“This isn’t right.”
Others criticized the fact that, like Harris, Padilla is a close friend of Newsom’s and that Padilla had defended ballot harvesting, nearly removed GOP backed ballot boxes, and also helped lead the COVID-19 shutdowns in California.
“One of the worst election officials in the nation will go to DC, unelected,” said lawyer and GOP National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillion in a Tweet. “A fitting exit to his failed tenure. Remember the time he said door to door ballot harvesting by strangers was cool during a pandemic shutdown when businesses and churches were shuttered? Good times.”
One of the worst election officials in the nation will go to DC, unelected!!! A fitting exit to his failed tenure. Remember the time he said door to door ballot harvesting by strangers was cool during a pandemic shutdown when businesses and churches were shuttered? Good times. https://t.co/g6pLSnwfFT
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) December 22, 2020
Padilla is expected to be sworn in as Senator by January 20th, the same day that Senator Harris is due to be sworn in as Vice President of the United States.