Newsom picks Padilla for California Senate seat
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will appoint California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) to fill a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D), Newsom’s office said Tuesday.
Padilla, 47, will be the first Latino to represent California in the Senate. He had been seen as the front-runner for the post, given his statewide profile and close relationship with Newsom.
“The son of Mexican immigrants — a cook and house cleaner — Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Senate, and has become a national defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State. Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the decision.
Padilla said he was “honored and humbled” by the appointment.
In a video released by Newsom’s office, Padilla teared up when Newsom asked him to go to Washington.
“Can you imagine what Mom would be thinking now as I ask you if you want to be the next U.S. Senator of the United States from the great state of California?” Newsom asked.
“Are you serious?” Padilla said, becoming visibly emotional.
“This is the ask, man,” Newsom said.
Pressure had been growing on Newsom even before Harris and President-elect Joe Biden won the White House in November. Outside groups mounted furious campaigns to lobby for their favored candidates.
Hispanic organizations pushed for Padilla to represent a state that has a larger Hispanic population than any other ethnic group. A group of prominent Black women lobbied Newsom to replace Harris, one of the few women of color in the Senate, with another Black woman, either Reps. Barbara Lee (D) or Karen Bass (D).
Some wanted Newsom to pick a caretaker to hold the seat — potentially former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) — until 2022, when Harris’s term expires. That would give the crowded field of ambitious Democrats the once-in-a-career chance to win a seat that automatically vaults someone to the top of the national conversation.
But Padilla, who was an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and is a longtime ally of Newsom’s, always had the inside edge.
Feinstein praised Padilla shortly after Newsom’s announcement.
“Crucially, Alex is someone who understands the many challenges that Californians are facing, and I believe he is very well-suited to fight for them for years to come. I also believe Alex brings a critically important voice to the Senate as the first Latino senator from California,” she said in a statement.
Padilla went to work for Feinstein after graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served on the Los Angeles City Council before winning a seat in the state Senate. In 2014, he won his first of two statewide elections as secretary of State.
He will now have two years to make his mark in the Senate before seeking reelection to a full term. Earlier on Tuesday, Padilla’s allies filed paperwork to begin raising money for a campaign committee.
Jordain Carney contributed. Updated at 2:09 p.m.
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