SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Gov. Gavin Newsom selected Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Tuesday to be a U.S. senator, a pick that sends a Latino to the Senate for the first time in the state's history.
"Because of them. I can’t tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or eggs he scrambled trying to provide for us or the many, many years of my mom cleaning houses, doing the same thing," Padilla said in the video call released by the governor’s office.
The Senator-designate graduated from M.I.T. with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Padilla was the favorite in a crowded field of possibilities to fill out the remainder of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' term. She plans to step down from the seat in January ahead of Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
The appointment gives a new level of representation to Latinos, who make up the state's single largest demographic group at nearly 40% of the population of almost 40 million.
"It’s an indication of the contributions Latinos have made to the history of this state, to its culture, to its economy", said Arturo Vargas, C.E.O, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and friend of Padilla.
The appointment isn’t without controversy as some thought the position should have gone to another of color such as Alameda Representatives Barbara Lee and Southern California’s Karen Bass, both of whom congratulated Padilla on his appointment.
"The sad reality is she was the only African American woman in the Senate at this time. When you think about the history of this country and the challenges that exist for African-Americans, especially African-American women in the Senate, definitely this is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed following word of the appointment.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown says he would have rather the position have gone to Lee or Bass but tells me he suspects part of the governor’s decision may have to do with efforts to recall him and that navigating the business of politics is tricky.
"Kind of the way in which I did when I served as the mayor of San Francisco. Sometimes people don’t understand it but it was part of what you are. Your loyalty, your promises, your commitment causes you to do certain things that displease people," said Brown.
While some were upset that Gov. Newsom did not appoint a Black woman to the job, Padilla’s replacement as California Secretary of State will be with the naming of Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber.
The San Diego state representative since 2012 and chair of California Legislative Black Caucus must still be confirmed by both houses of the legislature.
Padilla was first elected as California's secretary of state in 2014 and won a second term four years later. In that position, he has overseen California's vast elections apparatus, including the rollout of a more robust vote-by-mail system.
In the November election, California for the first time mailed a ballot to every registered voter. Padilla previously oversaw the implementation of the Voter's Choice Act, a 2016 law that allowed counties to mail all registered voters a ballot. The state now has a record 22 million registered voters.
Padilla lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three sons, ages 5, 7, and 13.
Padilla will need to run for a full six-year term in 2022. The appointment gives him an advantage, but he's still likely to face challenges, some within his party. California's top-two primary system allows two Democrats to face off in a general election.