California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks to students in San Diego in 2018. Photo by Ken Stone

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he will appoint Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be California’s next Senator to fill the term being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Padilla, who previously served as a Los Angeles City Councilman and State Senator, will become the first Latino to represent California in the Senate and the first Southern Californian in nearly three decades.

“The son of Mexican immigrants — a cook and 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,” said Newsom.

During his two terms as Secretary of State, Padilla, 47, has emerged as a national leader in the effort to expand voting rights. Under Padilla’s leadership, voter registration has risen to an all-time high of over 22 million Californians.

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

There are two years remaining in Harris’ Senate term, meaning Padilla, a Democrat, would need to win election in November 2022 to remain in office for a full six-year-term.

California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein praised Padilla’s choice saying he “brings a critically important voice to the Senate as the first Latino senator from California.”

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, Padilla worked for Hughes Aircraft before turning to politics. Padilla was raised in the Pacoima area and continues to live with his wife and three sons in the San Fernando Valley.

Padilla’s appointment was quickly welcomed by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“With roots in Southern California, his appointment is a significant opportunity for San Diego to be well represented by someone who has a deep understanding of the dynamics in this part of the state,” said Jerry Sanders, the chamber’s president and CEO. “We look forward to working with Secretary Padilla to advance the goals of the business community in our binational region.”

Updated at 1:40 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.