The clock is ticking for the California governor to pick a replacement for Harris’ soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, and these four Latinos are among the top contenders.
With a little over two months to go before Vice President-elect Kamala Harris assumes office, pressure is mounting for California Gov. Gavin Newsom to name her successor—and the odds are looking good for a Latino to take her place.
As governor, Newsom has the power to select who will serve the remainder of Harris’ term, which will be up for reelection in 2022. And since this summer, Latino advocacy groups have been publicly pushing Newsom to choose a Latino senator, a historic pick that would mark the first time a Latino is in the Senate office for California. In August, NBC News reported the Latino Community Foundation sent a letter openly calling for Newsom to choose a Latino replacement.
On Nov. 12, Latino Victory (a progressive initiative co-founded by actress Eva Longoria) announced that their choice for the vacancy is current California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
“[W]e’re urging Governor Newsom to make history and send the FIRST Latino to the U.S. Senate from California. We’re urging him to pick @AlexPadilla4CA! #PickPadilla,” the organization tweeted.
Padilla’s political resume includes representing the 20th District in the California State Senate,and serving for over seven years on the Los Angeles City Council. Plus, he is a longtime supporter of Newsom.
While Padilla may be a formidable contender, there are also other Latino and Latinas who have made a name for themselves in California politics who could be tapped for the office.
If Newsom wanted another Latino with statewide experience, current Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been acting as the state’s top lawyer since 2017.
Attorney General Becerra was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017, representing Downtown Los Angeles.
As for California voters, having “a fresh and new voice in politics” edged out legislative experience by 1% in a poll conducted by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy on who they wished would take Sen. Harris’ seat if she were elected Vice President.
According to the poll, almost half of the voter participants (48%) wanted someone who had never had any experience in Washington, DC, or in Sacramento. Seven contenders were listed in the poll as Harris’ replacement and 52% selected “don’t know.”
In a section of the poll that asked about selecting a possible candidate based on a short biographical description, without the head-to-head matchup, Long Beach Mayor Robert García led with 57%, followed by state Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Los Angeles) (53%); Secretary of State Alex Padilla (53%); and California Rep. Barbara Lee (51%).
Long Beach Mayor Robert García is still a fresh face in politics but has caught nationwide attention due to making history many times over as the city’s youngest mayor, and the first Latino, first openly LGBTQ, and first person of color to hold the office.
He has served as mayor for California’s seventh-largest city since 2014.
Politico reported García has recently been going up Newsom’s shortlist of candidates according to people close to the California governor.
A Latina whose name has also been floating in some political circles as a replacement is former secretary of labor under the Obama administration, Hilda Solís. Solís was the first Latina to serve in the United States Cabinet. Solís is currently a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She was also the first Latina to serve in the California State Senate.
Besides Latinos, women’s groups and other minority groups have also urged Newsom to choose a State Senator with a diverse background.
The clock is ticking for Newsom to make the right pick—and much is riding on his shoulders.