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Alex Padilla to fill Kamala Harris' seat as first Latino senator to represent California

Many Democrats in the state considered Padilla as a shoo-in, given that he and the governor have known each other for decades.
Image: Alex Padilla
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla at a news conference in Los Angeles on Sept. 24.Kirby Lee / AP file

WASHINGTON — California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he has chosen the state's secretary of state, Alex Padilla, to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Kamala Harris, who will be sworn in as vice president next month.

Padilla will be the first Latino senator to represent the 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. He will be a Senator for all Californians,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Newsom said that Padilla, a Democrat whose parents were Mexican immigrants, had worked his way up from “humble beginnings” to the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Los Angeles City Council and the state Senate.

“Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office,” Newsom said.

Padilla, 47, said in a statement that he was “honored and humbled” by Newsom’s decision.

“From those struggling to make ends meet to the small businesses fighting to keep their doors open to the health care workers looking for relief, please know that I am going to the Senate to fight for you,” he said. “We will get through this pandemic together and rebuild our economy in a way that doesn’t leave working families behind.”

Padilla has served as California’s secretary of state since 2015. He was considered by many Democrats in the state a shoo-in for the job, given that he and Newsom have known each other for decades.

In a tweet later Tuesday, Harris applauded the choice.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that Padilla's selection "is a victory for working families across our great state and our entire nation."

Dianne Feinstein, the state’s senior senator, on Tuesday heralded Newsom's decision as "an excellent choice."

"I very much look forward to working closely with Alex and I believe that together we can be a strong team for California’s benefit," she tweeted.

Feinstein had publicly said earlier this month that she wanted the governor to choose Padilla.

"I know him. And my sense is that he's going to represent California very well. And he's someone I'd be very happy to work with and also bring Hispanic representation to the Senate for the first time," Feinstein said on Capitol Hill.

Two Black women in the House, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, were also considered. Some Black civil rights leaders had urged Newsom to choose one of them as there will be no Black female senators once Harris moves to the White House.

Padilla will hold the seat until Harris’ term ends in 2022.