After Joe Biden announced that Kamala Harris would be his running mate ahead of the Democratic National Convention, people immediately began wondering who might be her successor in the Senate. Indeed, it was the subject of an earlier “Scramble for the Senate” post here on The Cascadia Advocate!
This week, California Governor Gavin Newsom ended that speculation by announcing that Secretary of State Alex Padilla would fill the empty seat.
After the announcement, Padilla thanked Governor Newsom and laid out his priorities – healthcare, vaccine access, and economic recovery.
Although Newsom’s turbulent political and personal history made the Governor’s decision-making process hard to predict (there was even baseless speculatation that he might pick himself!), his choice of Padilla shows excellent political acumen.
As the son of working class Mexican immigrants, Padilla will be California’s first Latino U.S. Senator – a major win for an ethnic group that makes up forty percent of California’s population. As a person of color from the south of the state, he will also be received favorably or neutrally by a myriad of powerful factions that were openly lobbying for the U.S. Senate seat. It helps that he was backed by sitting U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and the powerful Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“Padilla won two statewide elections against Republicans over the last seven years,” the California-based polling firm Latino Decisions noted in a commentary. “He won in 2014, by a seven point margin, and then again in 2018 by an almost thirty point blowout against the Republican challenger.”
Padilla has built a national reputation as a champion for election integrity. Latino Decisions’
“In a recent Latino Decisions Statewide survey of Latino registered voters, we asked ‘How much trust and confidence would you have that your mail ballot would be returned and counted in the election?’ In total, almost eighty percent of Latinos said they were totally confident or somewhat confident in California’s vote by mail system. At a time when President Trump has tirelessly attacked our election system in a desperate attempt to delegitimize our voting systems, Padilla has been a steadfast fighter for the integrity of our elections.”
Padilla became a member of Los Angeles’ City Council at the age of twenty-six, and has since been the city’s youngest Council President, served two terms in the State Senate, and (as mentioned) won election as California Secretary of State twice. He’s still three years shy of his fiftieth birthday!
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first Black Attorney General, who served under Barack Obama, praised Padilla’s selection in a tweet.
“A superb choice. As an accomplished Secretary of State, Alex has been a leader in the fight to protect our democracy. He’ll be a great Senator,” said Holder.
Though Harris is resigning as a member of the Senate, it’s important to remember that she is not leaving the institution, so comments to the effect of When Harris is gone, there will be no Black women in the Senate are not accurate.
As Vice President of the United States, Harris will also be the President of the Senate, and will even frequently wield an all-important tiebreaking vote if Democrats win both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs next month.
Those disappointed that Harris won’t be succeeded by a Black woman would also do well to remember that Dianne Feinstein is said to be contemplating stepping down before her term ends. There might just be another opportunity for Gavin Newsom (or his successor) to fill a United States Senate vacancy.