Let's All Welcome California's New US Senator, Alex Padilla, And Maybe Cry A Tiny
Yesterday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he had chosen California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be the state's next US senator, filling the seat held by Kamala Harris, who'll be a bit busy as vice president for the next four years. Padilla will become the first Hispanic person to represent California in the Senate, and, as the Los Angeles Timesnotes, the first US senator from Southern California in nearly 30 years, so there's a thing that probably matters more in Cali than to the rest of us. (The last US senator from SoCal was Republican Pete Wilson, in case you have a scorecard.)
Newsom made the offer in a Zoom call with Padilla, who didn't entirely see it coming, and we got a little teary-eyed with Padilla because we're emotional pushovers:
Padilla and Newsom had been talking about Padilla's immigrant parents, who both came to the US from Mexico to work, his father as a cook and his mother as a house cleaner.
Newsom: Can you imagine what they — Mom — would be thinking now as I ask you if you want to be the next senator of the United States from the great state of California?
Padilla: (wiping a tear) You serious?
Newsom: This is the official — This is the ask, brother.
Padilla: (long emotional pause) I'm honored, man, and I'm humbled, because of them. Can't tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or how many eggs he scrambled, trying to provide for us, or the many many years of my mom cleaning houses, doing the same thing.
And somewhere, Stephen Miller applied for a visa to Norway, planning never to return, but they don't want riffraff like him there.
Because Harris's move to the vice presidency leaves the Senate with no Black women members, Newsom had been lobbied heavily to appoint a Black woman to fill her seat, and frankly, that was our preference too. [Speak for yourself Dok: I insist Karen Bass stay in the House, where as former speaker of the California Assembly, she is the only possible successor to Nancy Pelosi. — Editrix]
As CNN notes,
Top contenders for Harris' seat included Rep. Karen Bass, who represents much of South Los Angeles, and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, but neither had as close a relationship to Newsom as Padilla.
When Newsom ran his first campaign for governor in 2009, Padilla served as his campaign chairman until Newsom dropped out when former Gov. Jerry Brown entered the race. (Newsom ultimately served as lieutenant governor to Brown).
But with several House members already tapped for Joe Biden's Cabinet and an extremely slim margin, any more House members were a no-go.
Lee and Bass did the whole congratulatory thing, because they're professionals who know how politics can go:
.@AlexPadilla4CA has a track record as a skilled legislator and a steadfast advocate for justice, and I believe he… https://t.co/naL7FM13WX— Rep. Barbara Lee (@Rep. Barbara Lee) 1608661201.0
Bass's multi-tweet thread on Twitter was similarly gracious, noting that they had served together on the LA City Council, when Padilla became its youngest-ever president, and in the state Lege as well. She went on to note (we'll copy-paste here because too many tweets freak out our dumb platform)
As our Secretary of State, Alex modernized our electoral process and led the effort to provide ballots by mail statewide so Californians could safely vote in this year's election.
Today, our state gains yet another champion following a distinguished line of individuals who have shattered glass ceilings and hurdled obstacles in their way. After then-Senator Harris's historic election in 2016 as the first woman of color to represent California, we now have another historic barrier shattered as Alex will be the first Latino to serve California in the United States Senate.
I look forward to continuing our fight for progress and representation in all facets of our government and am excited to work with Senator Padilla in the years to come.
Asked by the LA Times whether it's time for California's senior Senator Dianne Feinstein to retire in favor of a younger person who isn't having what seems like severe cognitive decline, Padilla was similarly diplomatic:
I respect Sen. Feinstein and her years of service and leadership, from her championing the assault weapons ban to in more recent years holding the CIA accountable for the use of force, and a whole lot of things in between. She's blazed a significant trail. We may not agree on 100% of the issues, but I look forward to working with her on behalf of all Californians.
And that's how you do Big Tent politics in a big fractious state. Now how about we all go get some good legislation passed?
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