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Nationwide and California-based organizations are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to choose State Secretary Alex Padilla as the next Senator. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Nationwide and California-based organizations are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to choose State Secretary Alex Padilla as the next Senator. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Who wants to be California’s next Senator?

The vacancy caused by Kamala Harris’ Vice Presidential win has opened the door for a Latinx candidate to make history.

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Hispanics and Latinos constitute the largest ethnic community in California, yet they are not represented at the highest positions of power within the Golden State.

With Sen. Kamala Harris’ election to become our nation’s next vice president, Gov. Gavin Newsom has the ability to choose who will fill her Senate seat for the remainder of her term.

The 17th Amendment gives governors the power to make appointments to fill their state’s vacancies in the U.S. Senate. As Harris is making her way to the White House, Newsom is in a unique position, where he has the ability to contribute to history.

Though Latinx public officials have risen to various positions of power in California over the past 20 years, its two U.S. Senate seats and the Governor’s office have continued to evade them.

There has never been a Latino or Latina to represent California in the U.S. Senate. California boasts the largest Latino population in the country, with more than 15 million Latinos — and 7.9 million eligible Latino voters and growing. 

Leaders and organizations like Latino Victory, Bold Dems, and the Latino Community Foundation believe now is the moment to appoint a Latinx candidate to build a democracy that is truly reflective of the state’s populace. By 2030, Latinos are projected to represent 43% of the population.

In California, there is also no shortage of BIPOC candidates open for consideration — not just Latinos.  

Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is a force in modern politics, highlighted amid this years’ scrutiny of civil rights, and even more so after she became a finalist for Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick over the summer.

However, there is the possibility that Bass is currently being considered for Biden’s cabinet, and Justice Dems recently marked her among their top picks for the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Besides Bass, for months, the names of prominent Latinx candidates such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia have circulated among the potential candidates.

The LA Times even threw in the name of Danny Trejo into the mix — with a rather compelling argument

But one name has stood out among the rest, and only because of the tremendous efforts by organizations in recent months for Newsom to consider this candidate specifically.

Alex Padilla.

The California Secretary of State has garnered support from Latino Victory fund, a Democratic Super PAC founded by Eva Longoria Bastón and Henry Muñoz. It launched the “Pick Padilla” campaign on Aug. 26, an initiative to send the first Latino to the U.S. Senate from California. 

Padilla is the former Los Angeles City Council president and California state senator. He has been one of Gov. Newsom’s closest allies for over a decade, including during Newsom’s unsuccessful run for governor in 2010.

Padilla is not the most progressive candidate that could be chosen from California’s political ranks. But he is a Latino, and the highest ranking Latino in California from a legislative perspective. 

“We are urging Governor Newsom to help make history by sending a Latino to the U.S. Senate from California for the first time ever,”  Latino Victory wrote in August.

Padilla has served in the top role in several California organizations. Apart from serving as president of the L.A. City Council, Padilla is currently President of the NALEO Education fund. 

He also served as President of the League of California Cities, Chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, and he previously served as a California State Senator.

Bold Democrats, the campaign arm for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also expressed its support of Padilla.

“As we make strides to recover from a reckless administration that tested the very fabric of our nation, we need a champion like Alex Padilla delivering for Californians in the U.S. Senate,” Bold Dems wrote on Twitter. 

Nationally, only nine Hispanic Americans have served in the U.S. Senate — four of which are currently serving, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

Whoever Newsom chooses as Senator, his decision could have the capability to be monumental.

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