California’s Newest Senator: Alex Padilla


Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

New California Senator, Alex Padilla, speaks at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention.

Jack O'Connor, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Joe Biden’s presidential victory will have many impacts on the future of American politics, but one of its most immediate impacts will be felt here in California as Vice President elect Kamala Harris will vacate here Senate seat. California Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement in December that California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla will fill the Senate seat formerly held by Harris.

Padilla’s appointment is historic as he is the son of Mexican-born immigrants and will become the first Latino senator in California’s history.

“I feel great about this. Being Hispanic/tiny part Latino, it’s very nice to see someone that shares a similar background to mine, taking a California seat in the Senate,” said senior Miles Tighe.

Padilla’s impact on California politics has been felt statewide during his career as a public service man. Throughout his long career, Padilla has served on the Los Angeles City Council, been a State Senator for two terms, and worked as the California Secretary of State under Governors Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown.

As Secretary of State, Padilla’s most notable decisions were his endorsement of the referendum that banned single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and his support for legislation which made voting in California easier. This bill  allowed 16 and 17-year old voters to preregister to vote and helped adults automatically register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. 

However this doesn’t mean that everyone is satisfied with Padilla’s nomination. Many Republicans as well as a few Democrats were disappointed with the appointment.

I feel great about this. Being Hispanic/tiny part Latino, it’s very nice to see someone that shares a similar background to mine, taking a California seat in the Senate

— Tighe

Many Democratic critics were upset with the fact that after Padilla fills Harris’ seat, as a result there will no longer be any African American women in the Senate. “This is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general,” said San Francisco Mayor, London Breed.

One of California’s most prominent Republicans, Harmeet Dhillon, was quick to criticize Padilla’s decisions as Secretary of State in a tweet. 

“One of the worst election officials in the nation will go to DC, unelected!!! A fitting exit to his failed tenure. Remember the time he said door to door ballot harvesting by strangers was cool during a pandemic shutdown when businesses and churches were shuttered,” said Dhillon.

Soon after the announcement from Newsom, Padilla declared his first priority as Senator. “Covid, Covid, Covid . . . There are of course big issues at hand, but we can’t fully address them until we get control of this pandemic,” said Padilla.

While the pandemic will likely take precedence over other issues for the time being, this doesn’t mean that Padilla lacks an ambitious legislative agenda.

Back in 2014 as state legislator, Padilla had shown support for many progressive policies like universal health care, prioritizing development in renewable energies, gun control, and abortion rights; however, it is currently unclear whether Padilla still holds these same beliefs today. 

Whether or not you politically identify yourself closely with Padilla, it’s hard to argue that his nomination isn’t historic. Regardless of if Padilla wins reelection in 2022, he could have a huge impact on the future of California politics both as a Senator during these deeply divided times as well as setting the huge precedent he set for the future of California Latinos in politics.