Gov. Newsom sends first Latino, Padilla, to Senate


Alex Padilla is California’s first Latino senator, replacing Kamala Harris, who is now vice president.

Joziah Rizzo ’23, Staff Reporter

After more than a month of suggestions, predictions, and debates, Gov. Gavin Newsom chose Alex Padilla to replace Sen. Kamala Harris, who was sworn in as Vice President last week.

As the days drew closer to the start of the presidential term of Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, a replacement for Harris became more urgent, and local leaders and voters were urging Newsom to select someone to fill her seat.

There was a lot of talk about whom people believed Newsom would appoint. The list included: California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra; Secretary of State Alex Padilla; Rep. Karen Bass (37th district-Los Angeles); Rep. Barbara Lee (13th district-Oakland); and the Mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia.

Alex Padilla, 47, California’s Secretary of State, had come up as a candidate to succeed Harris. He is a favorite of Latino lawmakers, advocacy groups and a number of labor officials. He was an intern for Senator Dianne Feinstein and became the youngest president of the Los Angeles City Council at the age of 26. He served as state senator for two terms, earned a degree in mechanical engineering, leading a climate research institution, and helped organize a ballot measure in 2015 to ban plastic bags to curb pollution and climate change. As he is close to Newsom personally, he will be a motivated ally and partner for Newsom’s vision to push bold climate policies.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 62, has served 12 terms in Congress representing downtown Los Angeles. His office has won 60 suits, with many still pending. He was one of the top candidates for the Senate seat, until President Joe Biden selected him as his nominee for secretary of Secretary of Health and Human Services. If confirmed, he will be the first Latino to run the department as it fights the coronavirus pandemic.

Barbara Lee, 74, has served in Congress since 1988. She is vice-chair and founding member of the LGBT Caucus. She came to fame as the only member of Congress to vote against the Iraq War and is a leader in anti-war legislation. She introduced the Women and Climate Change Act, which aims to create an agency working group on women and climate change. Like Becerra, she is also being considered for the Biden administration post.

Robert Garcia, 42, Mayor of Long Beach, is Peruvian American and is the first openly gay mayor. He has a doctorate in education from California State University at Long Beach. His intentions are to make Long Beach a national climate leader.

He has created workshops for different communities to discuss climate hazards and possible solutions, programs for Cal State, encouraged Long Beach students to engage communities vulnerable to sea rise and coastal flooding, lecture series and more. He would have been the first openly gay senator as well as its first Latino.

Karen Bass, 67, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is starting her sixth term in the House of Representatives. She has been fighting for social and environmental justice since she was a community organizer in Los Angeles back in 1980.

She issued a petition to reduce carbon emissions and the use of clean energy. She is leader on police reform measures and she lists climate change as one of her major issues. Biden is considering her for several positions in his incoming administration.

Alex Padilla was sworn in on Jan. 20 by Harris, after she took the oath of office for vice president.