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Newsom Taps California Election Chief Padilla For US Senate

In this Oct. 5, 2020 photo, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla holds ...

Photo by Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Above: In this Oct. 5, 2020 photo, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla holds a news conference on Orange County's plans to safeguard the election and provide transparency in Santa Ana, Calif.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Tuesday as the state's next U.S. senator to fill the seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The child of Mexican immigrants, Padilla will be California’s first Latino senator, giving a new level of representation to the demographic group that makes up nearly 40% of the state's population.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“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," Newsom said in a statement.

Padilla was widely expected to be Newsom's pick, as the two are longtime political allies. Newsom faced competing pressures to appoint a Latino to the seat and to appoint a Black woman, as Harris was the only Black woman in the chamber.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

RELATED: Gov. Newsom Challenged To Address Senate's Lack Of Diversity

“I am honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by Governor Newsom, and I intend to work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all Californians,” Padilla said in a statement.

Locally, Democrats and Latinos applauded Newsom's choice.

"There’s cause for celebration in the Latino community, having the first Latino senator representing California," said Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chair of the San Diego County Democrats. "We do know that representation matters. And it is very motivating for people in California, people in the Democratic party, to see a more diverse representation at the US senate, to insure that the Senate’s decisions are more diverse and equity-minded, which we have seen has been a challenge."

On Tuesday afternoon, Newsom announced he would nominate San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to fill Padilla's post as Secretary of State. The former SDSU professor will need to be confirmed by two-thirds of the state assembly and senate.

Padilla, 47, has been California’s top elections official since 2015. In that position, he’s overseen California’s vast elections apparatus, including the rollout of a more robust vote-by-mail system. In the November election, California mailed a ballot to every single registered voter. Prior to that, he oversaw the implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act, a 2016 law that allowed counties to mail all registered voters a ballot.

He’ll hold the Senate seat through 2022, when he will have to run for reelection. Harris hasn’t given a date for her resignation, but she will be inaugurated as vice president on Jan. 20.

He lives in Los Angeles.

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