Padilla, who has been California’s secretary of state, will be the first Latino senator to represent the Golden State.
“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. “He will be a senator for all Californians.”
Newsom posted a video, taken on Monday evening, in which he asked Padilla whether he wanted to take the post.
“You serious?” Padilla says in the video.
“This is the official, this is the ask, brother,” Newsom says.
Near tears, Padilla says, “I’m honored, man, and I am humbled.”
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
Padilla later posted his own campaign video describing his background and accomplishments.
I am humbled and honored to serve as California’s next United States Senator. Thank you, @GavinNewsom, for entrusting me with the role of defending the dream for the people of California. https://t.co/bCwf05C3hm pic.twitter.com/Fn5iNl6ldS
— Alex Padilla (@AlexPadilla4CA) December 22, 2020
Padilla was atop the list of possible successors to Harris even before she was elected to the vice presidency. He is a former Los Angeles city councilman and state senator, and was first elected secretary of state in 2014. He was re-elected in 2018.
He also has longtime ties to Newsom, having been chair of his first gubernatorial campaign in 2009.
“Whether you voted for Biden or Trump… whether you live in the North State or the Southland… whether you grew up speaking English, Spanish, Korean or Cantonese… we are all Californians,” he wrote. “And I intend to be a Senator for all the people.”
Padilla’s selection follows months of lobbying for him and other candidates by various advocacy groups and other politicos. Others who often were mentioned included Robert Garcia, the mayor of Long Beach. Black leaders had called for one of two House members, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, as Harris had been the only Black woman in the Senate. But there have been concerns about appointing anyone from the House, given the Democrats’ slim majority in the next Congress.
Newsom also might have to appoint two others to high-profile elected state offices. He will have to fill the position of attorney general if Xavier Becerra is confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services and, with Padilla’s appointment, a new secretary of state.
The most recent figure to be elevated to the Senate by appointment in California was John Seymour, a state senator and former mayor of Anaheim who was selected by Pete Wilson to fill his seat in 1991 when he became governor. But Seymour lost a special election the next year to Dianne Feinstein, who has been re-elected five times since. She threw her support behind Padilla’s selection.
Padilla, 47, emphasized his roots in the San Fernando Valley. The son of Mexican immigrants, he grew up in a three-bedroom house in Pacoima. “It wasn’t the safest neighborhood, but we had a backyard,” Padilla wrote.
Harris, the first California Democrat on a presidential ticket, has not said whether she will resign her Senate seat before the President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
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