California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the state’s U.S. Senate seat set to be vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement.
Padilla will be the first Latino to represent the Golden State in Congress’s upper chamber.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by Governor Newsom, and I intend to work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all Californians,” Padilla said in a statement.
Newsom’s announcement came amid growing pressure to appoint Harris’s replacement with a person of color. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — Padilla’s onetime boss – praised the move shortly after the announcement.
“Crucially, Alex is someone who understands the many challenges that Californians are facing, and I believe he is very well-suited to fight for them for years to come. I also believe Alex brings a critically important voice to the Senate as the first Latino senator from California,” said Feinstein.
He and Newsom have a long relationship. When Newsom first ran for governor in 2009, Padilla chaired his campaign. Newsom dropped out when former Gov. Jerry Brown entered the race and instead ran for lieutenant governor, a job he held for eight years. When he ran again for governor in 2018 in a competitive primary, Padilla endorsed him over other prominent Democrats, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Latino Victory Fund were among the groups advocating for Newsom to select Padilla.
Still, Newsom’s selection will frustrate others. Black leaders in particular were urging him to choose a Black woman, such as Reps. Karen Bass or Barbara Lee. Because Harris was the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate, some people felt Newsom should choose someone to maintain that representation.
Padilla has been on the state’s political scene for more than two decades. He was first elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council in 1999, at age 26.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.