State Watch

Newsom taps Shirley Weber to serve as California secretary of state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday tapped Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to serve as secretary of state after he picked Alex Padilla to join the Senate.

Weber has served in the state legislature since 2012 and is the chairwoman of the California Legislative Black Caucus. Her appointment comes as Newsom faced a lobbying campaign from several different groups over who he should pick to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. 

Black lawmakers had pressed Newsom to pick replace Harris, the only Black woman in the Senate, with another Black woman, but he ultimately went with Padilla, a longtime ally and California’s current secretary of state. However, in picking Weber as Padilla’s replacement, he was still able to elevate a Black woman to statewide office.

“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity,” Newsom said in a statement. “The daughter of sharecroppers from Arkansas, Dr. Weber’s father didn’t get to vote until his 30s and her grandfather never got to vote because he died before the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. When her family moved to South Central Los Angeles, she saw as a child her parents rearrange furniture in their living room to serve as a local polling site for multiple elections.”

“Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next Secretary of State – defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African American to be California’s Chief Elections Officer,” he added.

Weber, 72, is a well-connected legislator in Sacramento who, among other things, is known for authoring California’s landmark 2019 law curtailing police use of force, fighting for the repeal of California’s affirmative action ban and advocating for an array of other civil rights issues.

“I am excited to be nominated for this historic appointment as the Secretary of State of California. I thank Governor Newsom for the confidence he’s placed in me and his belief that I will stand strong for California. Being the first African American woman in this position will be a monumental responsibility, but I know that I am up for the challenge. Expanding voting rights has been one of the causes of my career and will continue to motivate me as I assume my new constitutional duties,” said Weber.

Weber’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the California State Assembly and Senate within 90 days.

Her elevation is just one part of Newsom’s calculus; he still has to fill the vacancy being left by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Newsom’s nomination of Padilla to head to Washington was also historic, giving California its first Latino senator. Latinos make up a plurality of California’s population at 40 percent, and Hispanic groups had lobbied the governor to use the vacancy to put one of their own in the Senate.

Tags Alex Padilla California Gavin Newsom Joe Biden senate appointment Shirley Weber Xavier Becerra

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