Washington — California Governor Gavin Newsom will name Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the Senate, Newsom announced on Tuesday. Padilla will be the first Latino senator to represent California, the nation's most populous state, which also has the largest Latino population in the country.
"His appointment will make history. But the @AlexPadilla4CA I know is far more interested in changing history -- especially for the working men and women of our state and country. I can think of no one better to represent the state of California as our next United States Senator," Newsom wrote on Twitter, tagging Padilla. A video of Padilla agreeing to take the position was attached to the tweet.
"I will make you proud and California proud by getting it done in the U.S. Senate. We've got a lot of work to do, and I'm ready," Padilla said in the video chat with Newsom.
In a statement announcing his selection, Newsom noted that Padilla is the son of immigrant parents who worked as a cook and a house cleaner.
"Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Senate, and has become a national defender of voting rights as California's Secretary of State. Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation's Capitol as California's next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office," Newsom said. "Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state's values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic. He will be a Senator for all Californians."
Padilla has been secretary of state since 2015, the first Latino to hold that position. Padilla is a longtime friend of Newsom.
"From those struggling to make ends meet to the small businesses fighting to keep their doors open to the health care workers looking for relief, please know that I am going to the Senate to fight for you. We will get through this pandemic together and rebuild our economy in a way that doesn't leave working families behind," Padilla said in a statement.
There are more than 15.5 million Latinos in California, or 39.4% of the state's population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The Latino Victory Fund launched a "Pick Padilla" campaign over the summer to urge Newsom to choose the secretary of state as Harris' replacement.
Some activists and lawmakers had called for Newsom to select a Black woman to replace Harris, who was only the second Black woman elected to the Senate. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the first Black woman to be elected mayor of that city, said the decision was "unfortunate," according to The Associated Press.
"This is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general, and I think it's really challenging to put it in words," she said.
Harris congratulated Padilla in a tweet on Tuesday.
"Congratulations to my dear friend, @AlexPadilla4CA! Alex and I have long served the people of California together, and I know he will continue fighting for our state as California's first Latino senator," Harris said.
Padilla will serve out Harris' term, which ends in 2022, and can then run again for a full six-year term.