NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Scramble for the Senate: Alex Padilla will be California’s next U.S. Senator

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.

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