Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

California governor appoints Alex Padilla to fill Kamala Harris' Senate seat

lex Padilla

Alex Padilla. Photo: Carolyn Cole/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to succeed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: Padilla — a child of Mexican immigrants — will be the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate. He is a close confidant of Newsom's and will serve in the Senate for the remainder of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

The big picture: Padilla was considered a front-runner for the appointment, but Newsom faced competing political interests while making his decision.

  • Some groups lobbied for Newsom to appoint a Black woman in honor of the diversity Harris brought to the Senate. Once Harris is sworn in as vice president, there will be no Black women in the upper chamber.
  • Other groups insisted that a Hispanic appointment was most fitting, as California is almost 40% Latino and has never had a Latino senator.
  • "It’s a hell of a decision, U.S. Senate, because you’re guaranteed to upset more people than you please," Newsom said recently, per the Wall Street Journal.

Background: As California's secretary of state, Padilla sought to expand voting access and ensure an accurate census count. He also served two terms in the state Senate, where he authored legislation in favor of climate change reform, closing the digital divide and universal health care.

What to watch: Padilla will have little time in office before campaigning begins for the 2022 race, which could attract top names in the Democratic Party like California Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. It's not yet clear if Padilla plans to run for a full six-year term.

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