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Newsom Picks Padilla to Fill Senate Seat Being Vacated by Harris

December 22, 2020 by Dan McCue
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday appointed his Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The child of Mexican immigrants, Padilla will be California’s first Latino senator, giving a new level of representation to the demographic group that makes up nearly 40% of the state’s population.

“Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement.

For his part, Padilla said he is “honored and humbled” by the trust the governor has placed in him

“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,” Padilla said.

“We will get through this pandemic together and rebuild our economy in a way that doesn’t leave working families behind,” he added.

Padilla won his first race for public office in 1999, when he was elected at 26 to the Los Angeles City Council. He later served two terms in the State Senate and then two terms as secretary of state, heading the office that runs California’s elections.

He has been California’s top elections official since 2015. In that position, he’s overseen California’s vast elections apparatus, including the rollout of a more robust vote-by-mail system.

In the November election, California mailed a ballot to every single registered voter. Prior to that, he oversaw the implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act, a 2016 law that allowed counties to mail all registered voters a ballot.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian, applauded Padilla’s selection Tuesday afternoon.

“His historic appointment as the first Latino Senator from California is a victory for working families across our great state and our entire nation,” she said. “As a former local official, member of the legislature and statewide officeholder in California, Senator-designate Padilla brings great knowledge of California that will serve him well in the Senate.

“The son of immigrants from a working class family, Secretary of State Padilla’s story is the story of the American Dream,” she continued. “He believes profoundly in the promise of America and as a Councilman, State Senator and Secretary of State, has worked relentlessly and effectively to make real our nation’s Founding promise: that all are created equal.  

“As a U.S. Senator, he will now have a platform to further this mission for families across our state and our nation,” Pelosi added.

Padilla will hold the Senate seat through 2022, when he will have to run for reelection. Harris hasn’t given a date for her resignation, but she will be inaugurated as vice president on Jan. 20.

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