Newsom Appoints Alex Padilla to U.S. Senate

Padilla will take VP Kamala Harris’ seat, becoming the first Latino to represent California in the Senate.

Once Kamala Harris won the Veepstakes, and then the election, California became ground zero for the Seatstakes. Governor Gavin Newsom has spent the fall weighing whom to appoint to Harris’ vacant U.S. Senate seat. Like Joe Biden, Newsom didn’t surprise anyone with his choice.

On Tuesday, Newsom announced that he has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be the next Senator from California. Padilla, a longtime Newsom ally, was always seen as the most likely candidate. The former president of the Los Angeles City Council and member of the state Senate will be the first Latino or Latina to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

For us Northern Californians who are used to having our Senators nearby, Padilla wasted no time in introducing himself. Following Newsom’s announcement, Padilla promptly released a two-minute promo video outlining his personal biography and his political accomplishments. 

We’ve also been blessed with a genuinely heartfelt video of Gavin making the big ask. CW: tears, Padilla reflecting on how his immigrant parents would have felt about the news, and many uses of the words “brother” and “man.” 

This process wasn’t all love, though. In fact, it was a big headache for Newsom at a time when the Governor was putting out a lot of fires, real and metaphorical. He has said selecting a new Senator is something he “wouldn’t wish even on my worst enemy.” 

Newsom faced tremendous pressure to appoint a Black woman, given the fact that Harris was the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate. Potential candidates included Representatives Barbara Lee of Oakland or Karen Bass of LA, as well as San Francisco Mayor London Breed. There was also speculation that Newsom might appoint an iconic old-timer like labor leader Dolores Huerta or former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to ride out the two years remaining in the Senate term. 

At a news conference Tuesday, Breed was forthright about her disappointment with Newsom’s pick, calling Padilla’s appointment “a real blow to the African American community, African American women, to women in general,” the Chronicle reported.

Padilla, who is 47, will be well-positioned to run for reelection in 2022. However, as the LA Times reports, other potential candidates are already stocking up their war chests, including Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. 

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