Padilla, California’s secretary of state, will be the first Latino to represent the state in the US Senate.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has selected his longtime political ally Alex Padilla to replace Senator Kamala Harris in the United States Senate after she becomes vice president next month.
The 47-year-old Padilla is California’s secretary of state and was widely regarded as having an inside track to Harris’s seat, although Newsom had been under pressure to pick a Black woman to replace Harris, the only Black woman currently serving in the Senate.
Newsom posted a video on Twitter surprising Padilla by asking him to accept the appointment.
His appointment will make history. But the @AlexPadilla4CA I know is far more interested in changing history — especially for the working men and women of our state and country.
I can think of no one better to represent the state of California as our next United States Senator. pic.twitter.com/xiAzpTS42Y
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 22, 2020
Newsom reminded Padilla that both of Padilla’s parents came to the US from Mexico as immigrants and met in Los Angeles.
“Can you imagine what your mom would be thinking now as I ask you to be the next US senator from the great state of California?” Newsom asked.
“Are you serious?” Padilla responded, tearing up with emotion.
“I am honoured, man. And I am humbled, because of them,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or eggs he scrambled to provide for us. And the many, many years of my mom cleaning house,” Padilla said.
Padilla’s appointment would become effective when Harris officially resigns, which she must do before being inaugurated as vice president on January 3.
“It’s a fantastic choice,” said Roger Salazar, president of ALZA Strategies, a Democratic political consultancy in Sacramento, California.
“It’s a very strong symbolic choice for Gavin Newsom with California’s Latino population being nearly 40 percent, picking the first Latino US senator in California history, sets a mark and it’s ground-breaking,” said Salazar, who had been an advocate for Padilla’s selection.
In selecting Padilla, Newsom fended off pressure from a coalition of Black leaders and top Democratic female fundraisers to appoint either US Representative Karen Bass of Los Angeles or Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland. Both had expressed interest in succeeding Harris in the Senate.
Padilla and Newsom have been close political allies since 2010. A son of Mexican immigrants, Padilla was elected to the California state Senate in 2006 and ran for statewide office as secretary of state in 2014.