Newsom picks Padilla for Senate seat

In a widely-expected appointment, Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped California Sec. of State Alex Padilla on Tuesday to fill the vacant Senate seat left by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“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,” Newsom said in a statement. “Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office. 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. He will be a Senator for all Californians.”


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Newsom officially offered the position to Padilla in an emotional video call in which Padilla thanked the Governor, saying he was “honored and humbled,” and reflected on his parents’ history in the state.

“I can’t tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or eggs he scrambled trying to provide for us,” Padilla said. “Or the many, many years of my mom cleaning houses, doing the same thing. That’s why I try so hard to make sure that our democracy is as inclusive in California as we’ve built, and it’s a hell of an important perspective to bring to Washington.”

Given Harris’s historic election as the second black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, numerous voices, including She the People founder Aimee Allison, had publicly called on Newsom to appoint another woman of color to the position. Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Karen Bass were both considered to be contenders. While Padilla’s selection is historic as the first Latino to represent California in the Senate, it will leave the country without a single black female senator.

“For the future of California, our country, women of color, and the communities closest to us, this should be a learning moment that we need to keep marching forward and not reverse progress,” Allison said after Newsom’s decision. “Sen. Harris cannot be the only woman of color at the table … It’s not enough for her to break this glass ceiling — there needs to be a path for future generations of women of color to follow in her footsteps. We cannot afford to wait decades for the voices of Black women to be heard.”

Padilla’s term will expire in 2022, when the seat will be up for election again.