Governor Gavin Newsom has put an end to all the palace intrigue and any backroom wrangling that may have been going on and he's tapped California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be the next senator from California, to take Senator Kamala Harris's seat.
Newsom had been widely expected to choose Padilla for a number of reasons, including the pair's close relationship, and the ability to name the first ever Latinx person to represent a heavily Latinx state in the Senate. But the choice is likely to upset some who had hoped Newsom would name another woman of color to the seat — especially given the fact that Harris is only the second Black woman ever to serve in the Senate, full stop.
The announcement went out via press release and without a formal, televised ceremony, partly because Newsom himself is undergoing another 10-day quarantine after possible COVID exposure from a member of his staff.
"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 Tuesday morning. "He will be a senator for all Californians."
As the LA Times reports, Padilla is a Los Angeles Democrat and the son of Mexican immigrants who settled in the San Fernando Valley. He began his career serving on the Los Angeles City Council at the age of 26, and went on to become the city’s youngest council president. He then was elected to the state Senate, and ultimately to be secretary of state for two terms.
Padilla issued a statement today saying, "I am honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by Gov. Newsom, and I intend to work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all Californians. From those struggling to make ends meet to the small businesses fighting to keep their doors open to the healthcare workers looking for relief, please know that I am going to the Senate to fight for you."
As the Chronicle reports, the Latino Victory Fund is celebrating the choice of Padilla, with CEO Nathalie Rayes saying, "This marks a long-overdue milestone for the Latino community, and it’s a bold step towards having a Senate that looks like the communities it serves."
But not everyone is thrilled, and those who were gunning for a woman of color to fill the seat are notably disappointed.
One of those is L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who had formed a group called "Keep the Seat" that advocated for a Black woman appointee — Congresswomen Karen Bass and Barbara Lee had both reportedly been under consideration.
"I know politics comes into play, but for me there was a greater kind of cause and calling," Mitchell tells the LA Times. "I am disappointed that the governor didn’t see value in the opportunity that was presented to him to guarantee fair representation for Black women in the U.S. Senate."
Mayor London Breed, who had also been talked about as a potential candidate for the seat, expressed her disappointment as well during a COVID update briefing on Tuesday. "It was definitely a surprise and it's an unfortunate situation as we are trying to move this country forward in making sure that Black lives truly matter and that African Americans have a seat at the table, especially African American women," Breed said. "The sad reality is [Sen. Harris] was the only African American woman in the Senate at this time, and when you think about the history of this country and the challenges that exist for African Americans especially... this is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general."*
For her part, Rep. Lee issued a statement congratulating Padilla "on his historic appointment" and saying he would be "a powerful voice in the Senate for those who continue to be denied our country’s promise of equality."
Padilla will now have to mount an election campaign in order to hold on to the seat — which was another key consideration in Newsom's choice, selecting someone with statewide fundraising experience and name recognition. Harris's seat is up for reelection in 2022.
As the Chronicle notes, the last governor's appointee to the Senate, Republican John Seymour of Southern California, lost his election bid to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1992.
And Newsom now has two major appointments to make in the state house, replacing the secretary of state, and finding a replacement for Attorney General Xavier Becerra, assuming his nomination to Biden's cabinet is confirmed.
Photo: DNCC via Getty Images
*This post has been updated with Breed's remarks.