When Gov. Gavin Newsom named then-California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Kamala Harris’ seat in the U.S. Senate after she was elected vice president, it was the right choice — and not only because it was high time that this state, where 39% of residents are Latino, had a Latino senator.
As the state’s election chief, Padilla had already shown he had the mettle to take on national issues by offering a sober and factual counterpoint to President Trump’s frequent lies about election fraud. And his long political resume as secretary of state, as state senator representing the San Fernando Valley and as Los Angeles City Council president made it clear he was among the few ready to step up to the Senate seat on short notice. He did that with ease, and now, just slightly over a year since he took office, Padilla has proven that he is as capable, as honorable, as skilled a lawmaker as we expected.
California’s junior senator immediately and competently stepped into the debate — pushing to include social safety benefits for immigrants in the “Build Back Better” plan and co-writing bipartisan legislation that, among other things, would reinvest in the nation’s electrical grid and fund electric school buses and were included in last year’s infrastructure package signed by President Biden.
He now faces his first election for the Senate seat. (Or rather, he faces his first elections. Padilla’s name appears on the June 7 ballot twice: first, as a candidate for the remainder of Harris’ term through January 2023 and again for the following full six-year term.) Voters should send him back to Washington without hesitation.
In the Senate, Padilla has established himself as a major advocate for immigrants and the need to create better immigration policy, and has been a staunch advocate for climate change policy and environmental protection. No surprise on either count — Padilla, a Democrat, is the son of immigrants from Mexico and while in the Legislature wrote California’s landmark single-use plastic bag ban. And, importantly in this fraught moment, he is a reliable supporter of reproductive rights and has co-sponsored legislation to enshrine abortion protections in federal law.
Nearly two dozen people are also running for the Senate seat, but none have a fraction of Padilla’s experience. The most prominent is Mark Meuser, a constitutional lawyer who has received the state Republican Party endorsement. Meuser, who unsuccessfully challenged Padilla for California secretary of state in 2018, has positions that are out of line with the values of most Californians. Just one example: Meuser has been a loud critic of mask mandates and other sensible COVID-19 pandemic public health measures and says he has been involved in 22 lawsuits challenging Newsom’s pandemic emergency authority.
California and the nation deserve strong leadership in the U.S. Senate, the kind that only Padilla offers in this race.