On Wednesday, outrage grew from Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to select California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill out Kamala Harris’ term as Senator.
While Gov. Newsom’s selection was well-received by some, with many noting the historical significance of the first Hispanic Senator in state history, many other groups have called out the Governor for several reasons ranging from overlooking some racial groups to being accused of putting his friends in higher offices.
Prominent African-Americans and African-American groups have derided Newsom’s choice, noting that Newsom’s pick severely cuts down on the number of African-Americans in the Senate, and removes the only Senate seat filled by an African-American woman.
“Definitely, this is a real blow to the African-American community,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Wednesday during a press conference. “It’s an unfortunate situation as we are trying to move this country forward and making sure that Black lives truly matter and that African-Americans have a seat at the table, especially African-American women, after what was done in this race on a national level, definitely is unfortunate.”
Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), who had widely been considered one of the frontrunners for the Senate seat, had a more mixed reaction on Wednesday. While she did congratulate Padilla on his appointment, she also noted that Newsom is now contributing to the lack of representation for African-American women in Congress. She also noted that there are now only 2 African-American Senators left following Harris’ elevation to the Vice Presidency.
“I will tell you that I do believe that there should be an African American woman in the Congress,” said Bass, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. “When Sen. Harris is sworn in as the vice president, there will be one African American Democrat, one African American Republican, no African American women.”
GOP disapproval, Newsom’s “damage control
Republicans have also disapproved of Padilla becoming a Senator, pointing out his approval of ballot harvesting, his approval of COVID-19 related shutdowns, and his actions during the election in which his off ice a awarded a $35 million contract in CARES Act funding to SKD Knickerbocker, a political consulting firm with direct ties to the Biden campaign.
“Alex Padilla’s actions as California Secretary of State raise serious ethical and legal questions and we must have answers immediately before he is entrusted with representing all citizens of California in the U.S. Senate and safeguarding taxpayer dollars,” said House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member Congressman James Comer (R-KY) on Tuesday.
As noted by the California Globe before, lawyer and GOP National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillion also disagreed with Padilla’s elevation, noting, among other things, his ballot harvesting actions during his tenure as Sec. of State.
“One of the worst election officials in the nation will go to DC, unelected,” said Dhillion in a Tweet on Tuesday. “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.”
Newsom had attempted to quell some of the criticism on Tuesday by picking Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as the next Secretary of State, only to be called out for the pick soon after.
“This was Newsom’s idea of damage control,” noted Washington-based election advisor Stan Taney to the Globe. “He just got rid of black representation in the Senate for California, so he gives a consolation prize at the state level. Normally, in DC, we don’t hear about state-level shuffles that much, but I got an earful of this on Tuesday and more today. Everyone knows that Newsom picked his friend, Padilla, so that someone who believes in the things like him can be in the Senate. He put his friend there.
“And now he’s making people more angry. And, you know, this should be a bigger deal from a positive perspective. This is the first Latino Senator in California. That should be the headline right now. Instead, it’s about how Newsom botched it, and by trying to fix it, botched it even more.
“Black leaders, Republican leaders, and really, anyone looking at politics at least at a cursory level, aren’t stupid. They all saw exactly what really went down on Tuesday.”
However, the resulting uproar, as well as several vacancies now opening up next year, have been altering Democratic party plans for the next few years. The Secretary of State position, which many politicians had announced they would try for once Padilla was out, are now unsure of running during the next election. State and local races are also drawing in a logjam of politicians hoping to be elected to a higher office, primarily in the Democratic Party. And Newsom’s decision now has a key demographic, African-Americans, now possibly turning against him via the ongoing recall signature gathering.
“Recall supporters should definitely use this against Newsom when courting African-Americans for signatures,” added Taney. “He insulted them twice yesterday.”
Other top California Republicans pressed the same issue on Wednesday, with Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker saying that “In 2022, we are confident voters will reject a Los Angeles liberal career politician.”
Criticism over the pick is expected to continue into the new year as the Padilla pick’s consequences continue to filter down to more state and local positions and future elections in California.