Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a former educator, has a doctorate in communication. Photo by Chris Stone

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday nominated Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as secretary of state to replace soon-to-be-senator Alex Padilla, taking Kamala Harris’ seat on Capitol Hill.

The decision, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, means fellow San Diegan and Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, won’t have an easy path to that state office. She’s already announced as a candidate for the 2022 race.

Also running to be California’s top elections official is Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, a Chinese-American representing part of Silicon Valley.

Weber’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Legislature.

“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity,” Newsom said. “The daughter of sharecroppers from Arkansas, Dr. Weber’s father didn’t get to vote until his 30s and her grandfather never got to vote because he died before the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. When her family moved to South Central Los Angeles, she saw as a child her parents rearrange furniture in their living room to serve as a local polling site for multiple elections.

“Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next secretary of state — defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African-American to be California’s chief elections officer,” the governor said.

Weber, 72, has been in the Assembly since 2012 and chairs the California Legislative Black Caucus. She previously served on the San Diego Board of Education and was a longtime professor at San Diego State University.

“I am excited to be nominated for this historic appointment as the secretary of state of California,” Weber said. “I thank Governor Newsom for the confidence he’s placed in me and his belief that I will stand strong for California. Being the first African-American woman in this position will be a monumental responsibility, but I know that I am up for the challenge. Expanding voting rights has been one of the causes of my career and will continue to motivate me as I assume my new constitutional duties.”

The Times reported Tuesday that Weber, 72, “has earned a reputation for taking on tough issues at the state Capitol. She would be only the fourth woman to ever hold the position and the first Black woman to do so in state history.”

In a tweet, Gonzalez said: “While, I would’ve loved the opportunity to serve, I fully appreciate the need to amplify Black women in our state. Shirley Weber is an icon and will serve California well.”

Veteran political observer Carla Marinucci of Politico called the pick “interesting,” since the 79th District rep had lobbied hard for a Black woman to get the U.S. Senate seat.

San Diego journalist Kelly Davis added: “Weber has been *the* most important legislator on police reform and such an important leader in a district that’s been overlooked in the past. Why pull her from that role?”

Others see Newsom’s choice as a way to placate African-Americans upset that a Black woman wasn’t chosen to replace Harris in the Senate.

Voice of San Diego managing editor Sara Libby tweeted: “Newsom was under pressure to appoint a Black woman to the Senate, so this seems like an acknowledgment of that, and of her work…..
I’ve also suspected the he’d be wary of appointing Gonzalez to the role, since she is already running for the job (and so are others), lest he be seen as putting his thumb on the scale for her. The question will be whether Weber will run to keep the job.”

Other local reactions:

Updated at 4:17 p.m. Dec. 22, 2020

— City News Service contributed to this report.

Show comments