Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Alex Padilla (center) in the Senate chambers. Image from C-SPAN

Former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla took the oath of office as the state’s newest senator Wednesday, becoming the first Latino to represent California in the Senate.

Padilla resigned as secretary of state on Monday and was formally appointed by the governor to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-Vice President Kamala Harris.

President Joe Biden and Harris were inaugurated Wednesday morning, and Padilla was sworn into his new post in the afternoon — by Harris, the nation’s first female, Black and South Asian vice president.

Padilla, whose wife and sons were unable to be in Washington due to coronavirus and security concerns in the wake of the U.S. Capitol siege, held his mother’s Bible in his hand.

He was joined in the chamber by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles. He worked for both politicians early in his career.

Feinstein said she was “thrilled to welcome Alex Padilla to the Senate as California’s newest senator. He already has had a distinguished career in public service and I know he will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our state.”

Feinstein added, “I can’t wait to start working with Senator Padilla on the issues close to us both, from COVID-19 relief and immigration reform to climate change and economic recovery.”

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez offered her congratulations.

“A son of immigrants raised in the Northeast San Fernando Valley is the first California Latino U.S. senator,” she said. “I’m unbelievably proud of my friend Alex Padilla! As the child of service workers, Senator Padilla will bring the fight to D.C. for working-class communities throughout the state.”

Padilla, in comments Monday, pledged to “carry on the mission of building a more inclusive democracy and economy for all.”

Padilla, 47, had served as secretary of state since 2015. Prior to that, he served in the state Senate representing the 20th District. He spent more than seven years on the Los Angeles City Council representing the Seventh District in the northeastern San Fernando Valley. He was the council president for five years — the youngest and first Latino to ever hold that post.

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.

Newsom nominated Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego to take over as secretary of state. If confirmed by the Legislature, Weber will become the first Black woman to ever hold that position. Weber has been in the Assembly since 2012 and chairs the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Padilla’s deputy secretary of state, James Schwab, will fill serve in the role pending Weber’s confirmation.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

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