California can have its first Latino senator

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks throughout a information convention on the State Capitol constructing in 2019 in Sacramento, California. On Tuesday, December 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. | Wealthy Pedroncelli/AP

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will fill Kamala Harris’s seat within the US Senate.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has chosen California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ US Senate seat. California has by no means earlier than had a Latino senator, even though almost 40 p.c of its residents are Latino — and Padilla will change that.

“The son of Mexican immigrants — a prepare dinner and home cleaner — Alex Padilla labored his means from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles Metropolis Council and the State Senate, and has grow to be a nationwide defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State. Now, he’ll serve within the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s subsequent United States Senator, the primary Latino to carry this workplace,” Newsom stated in a press release asserting his determination.

Whereas Padilla’s choice is a representational victory for Latinos, it additionally means there won’t be a single Black lady within the Senate. It is a return to the norm — Harris was solely the second Black lady ever elected to the chamber. Newsom’s alternative additionally displays the rising power of the state’s Latino political coalition, which waged a monthslong marketing campaign urging the governor to choose from amongst its ranks. The Legislative Black Caucus did the identical however was clearly unsuccessful.

“We’re adamant that this place should go to an African-American lady because of our laborious work on this final election, in addition to our laborious work in California and representing the Democratic Get together,” Rep. Shirley Weber, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, stated at a November press convention at which the caucus nominated Reps. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee as candidates for the place.

As Teddy Schleifer reported for Recode, a bunch of the state’s largest donors urged the governor to pick out a girl of shade for the seat. They addressed a letter to Newsom in full-page advertisements within the Los Angeles Occasions and the San Francisco Chronicle, writing that “ladies of shade are the core drivers of electoral progress in our nation, and their voices must be heard within the nation’s highest governing physique. … We sit up for you deciding on certainly one of them.”

Regardless of their efforts, Padilla was seen because the front-runner for months, as reported by Li Zhou and Benjamin Rosenberg for Vox. “Each of California’s senators have come from the San Francisco Bay Space since 1992,” they wrote, noting that Padilla’s background within the Los Angeles space, the place the majority of the state’s Latino inhabitants resides, has been a robust vote in his favor. Padilla will maintain the seat till 2022, when he’ll most definitely run for a full Senate time period.

Padilla’s star rose this 12 months because the safety of the nation’s election was baselessly but repeatedly known as into query by President Donald Trump. By attacking primarily secretaries of state, Trump highlighted how central they’re to the election course of, giving Padilla a possibility to champion his work, together with increasing poll entry and modernizing California’s voting methods.

One other contender for the place, California Lawyer Normal Xavier Becerra, was chosen by President-elect Joe Biden to guide the US Division of Well being and Human Companies. His departure may present Newsom the chance to raise one of many candidates handed over for Harris’ Senate seat. This statewide place has traditionally been a springboard to greater workplace — along with Becerra, Harris beforehand served as California’s legal professional common, as did former California Gov. Jerry Brown.

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