Alex Padilla
Alex Padilla 117th Congress portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2021
United States Senator
from California
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Serving with Dianne Feinstein
Appointed byGavin Newsom
Preceded byKamala Harris
30th Secretary of State of California
In office
January 5, 2015 – January 18, 2021
GovernorJerry Brown
Gavin Newsom
Preceded byDebra Bowen
Succeeded byShirley Weber
Member of the California State Senate
from the 20th district
In office
December 4, 2006 – November 30, 2014
Preceded byRichard Alarcon
Succeeded byConnie Leyva
President of the Los Angeles City Council
In office
July 4, 2001 – January 1, 2006
Preceded byRuth Galanter
Succeeded byEric Garcetti
Member of the Los Angeles City Council
from the 7th district
In office
July 1, 1999 – December 4, 2006
Preceded byRichard Alarcon
Succeeded byRichard Alarcon
Personal details
Born (1973-03-22) March 22, 1973 (age 49)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Angela Monzon
(m. 2012)
Children3
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
Signature
WebsiteSenate website
Campaign website

Alejandro Padilla (/pəˈdə/ pə-DEE; born March 22, 1973) is an American politician serving as the junior United States senator from California since 2021. A member of the Democratic Party, Padilla served as the 32nd secretary of state of California from 2015 to 2021.[1]

Padilla served more than seven years on the Los Angeles City Council, representing the 7th district. First elected in 1999, he was the president of the Los Angeles City Council from 2001 to 2006. He then served in the California State Senate for the 20th district from 2006 to 2014.

Governor Gavin Newsom used his power to appoint Padilla to the United States Senate after then-Senator Kamala Harris was elected Vice President of the United States; Harris, as the newly elected vice president and president of the Senate, swore Padilla in on January 20, 2021. His term ends in November 2022; in April 2021, he announced his candidacy in the 2022 election for the term from November 2022 to January 2023 and the subsequent full term.[2][3] He is the first Mexican American and Hispanic senator from California, as well as the first male senator from California since Alan Cranston left office in 1993.[4][5]

Early life and education

Padilla is one of three children of Santos and Lupe Padilla, both of whom emigrated from Mexico, specifically Jalisco and Chihuahua, before meeting and marrying in Los Angeles, where he was born.[6][7] He grew up in Pacoima, Los Angeles, and graduated from San Fernando High School in the northeast San Fernando Valley.[8] He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1994.[9] He graduated from the Coro Fellows Southern California Program in 1995.

Career

Early career

After graduation, he moved back to Pacoima and briefly worked as an engineer for Hughes Aircraft, where he wrote software for satellite systems.[10][11][12]

Padilla is a former member of the governing board of MIT and president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), which has a membership of more than 6,000 Latino U.S. officials.[13][14] He serves as chair of the Los Angeles Leadership Council for the American Diabetes Association, elected in July 2005.[13][15]

Padilla began in politics as a member of the Democratic Party in 1995, in substantial part in response to California Proposition 187, which excluded illegal immigrants from all non-emergency public services, including public education, but which he felt was motivated by a broader nativism that demonized legal and illegal immigrants alike.[16] His first professional role was as a personal assistant to Senator Dianne Feinstein. He then served as a campaign manager for Assemblyman Tony Cardenas in 1996, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo in 1997, and State Senator Richard Alarcon in 1998, all Democrats. All won their respective elections.[13][17]

Los Angeles City Council

On July 1, 1999, at age 26, Padilla was sworn in as a member of the Los Angeles City Council.[18] Two years later, his colleagues elected him council president. Padilla was the first Latino and the youngest person elected president of the Los Angeles City Council, defeating incumbent Ruth Galanter.[13][19] On September 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 attacks, Padilla became the acting mayor of Los Angeles for a couple of days while Mayor James K. Hahn traveled out of the city.[20][19] Los Angeles Times wrote that Padilla's rise to the mayor's office raised his "political stock".[20]

During his term as City Council president, Padilla also was elected president of the California League of Cities, the first Latino to serve in that position.[13]

California State Senate

After retiring as president of the Los Angeles City Council, Padilla was elected to the State Senate in 2006, defeating Libertarian Pamela Brown. He was reelected in 2010 with nearly 70% of the vote over Republican Kathleen Evans.[21] Padilla served as a member of the Appropriations Committee, Business and Professions and Economic Development Committee, Governmental Organization Committee, Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, and chaired the Select Committee on Science, Innovation and Public Policy. He left office on November 30, 2014, after two terms.[22]

In August 2012, Padilla was included in a list of 20 Latino political rising stars compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, citing his role in the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.[23]

In September 2014, Padilla promoted what would later become Proposition 67, a proposed ban on plastic bags.[24][better source needed] On November 8, 2016, when Padilla was Secretary of State, the proposal was voted on in a referendum, and the option in favor of the ban on the plastics bags received 53% of the vote.[25] Padilla authored legislation that passed in 2008 that requires some restaurants to disclose calorie information on menus.[26][27]

Secretary of State

Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention.

On April 11, 2013,[28] Padilla announced his intention to run for California secretary of state in 2014, to succeed the term-limited Debra Bowen. He was expected to face an intraparty battle with fellow Democrat Leland Yee, but Yee's arrest for felony racketeering caused Yee to abandon the race.[29] Padilla won the election on November 4, 2014, with 53.6% of the vote, defeating Republican Pete Peterson.[30]

On June 29, 2017, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which President Donald Trump created on May 11, requested data on enrolled voters from every state, dating back to 2006. Padilla said that California would not supply the data.[31][32]

On November 6, 2018, Padilla was reelected with 64.5% of the vote, defeating Republican Mark P. Meuser.[33]

On October 16, 2020, Padilla was involved in a controversy between the state and the California Republican Party, as the party deployed unofficial ballot boxes for voters to submit their ballots at select locations, including churches and gun stores in competitive California districts.[34][35][36][37] Padilla issued a cease-and-desist order, arguing that the ballot boxes were illegal and failed to ensure ballot security.[35][36][34][38] Local Republican leadership refused to follow the order and said the boxes were a form of legal ballot harvesting that had been enabled by recent Democratic legislation (which lacked a chain of custody requirement),[34] and were a way to increase voter turnout.[39][34] Accusing Democrats of hypocrisy given their widespread door-to-door ballot harvesting in the 2018 United States elections,[40][35][34] the state Republican Party later agreed to a set of collection procedures and said a volunteer's mistake of affixing a sign denoting the ballot box as "official" had contributed to the political standoff; Padilla's office said it was continuing to investigate whether ballots were being handled correctly and that the "ineptitude or unlawfulness of a political operative or campaign volunteer" could nonetheless lead to "serious legal consequences".[34][35]

In early 2020, Padilla announced a $35 million no-bid contract for a statewide voter education ad campaign with partisan public relations firm SKDK (then known as "SKDKnickerbocker") called "Vote Safe California", but State Controller Betty Yee blocked the funding because Padilla's office did not have the authority to use federal money that was allocated to county governments; the campaign proceeded anyway.[41] The group had marketed itself as being on "Team Biden", and the awarding of the no-bid contract under supposed "emergency powers" despite the group's ties with the Democratic Party and work for Democratic politicians running for office in California received bipartisan criticism.[42][43][44] Amid ongoing litigation by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who contend that the contract bypassed fair competition rules and misappropriated federal election funding for local elections operations, and was therefore illegal, Governor Newsom signed legislation that provided state funding to reimburse SKDK in February 2021.[42]

Upon Padilla's appointment to the U.S. Senate, Newsom appointed Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to succeed him.[45]

U.S. Senate

Appointment

In August 2020, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. After they won the general election, Padilla was mentioned as a possible choice as Harris' successor in the Senate. Governor Newsom had the power to appoint her successor.[46][47][48][49] In December 2020, Newsom announced that he would appoint Padilla to the seat, making him California's first Hispanic senator[50] and the first male U.S. senator from California since Alan Cranston retired in 1993. During the speculation about whom Newsom would appoint, the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, supported Padilla.[51][52] To replace Padilla as California's secretary of state, Newsom appointed state assemblywoman Shirley Weber.[53]

Most Latinos, who are 40% of California's population, supported Padilla's appointment,[54] but some black leaders, who wanted another black woman to replace Harris, criticized it. San Francisco Mayor London Breed called Padilla's appointment "a real blow to the African American community".[54]

Elections

2022

Main article: 2022 United States Senate elections in California

Padilla has announced that he will seek a full term in 2022. He will appear on two ballots: one for the special election to fill the remainder of the term in the 117th Congress, and the other for the new term beginning with the 118th Congress.[2]

Tenure

On January 20, 2021, Padilla was sworn into the United States Senate in the 117th Congress by Vice President Kamala Harris, his predecessor, becoming the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate. He was sworn in by Vice President Harris on her first day, at the same time as new Georgia senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. He is serving the final two years of Harris's term, so his term in the Senate will end in November 2022.[2][55] He has filed the necessary paperwork with the FEC to run for a full term and an unexpired term in the 2022 elections.[3]

While in office, Padilla introduced legislation to add more legal protections for various public lands in California, including parts of the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Padres National Forest, and Carrizo Plain National Monument.[56][57] Padilla also introduced legislation to help coastal communities adapt shorelines to increased flooding and erosion from sea level rise and extreme weather.[58]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

The Wall Street Journal says that Padilla had "a reputation [in the State Senate] as a business-friendly moderate".[64] FiveThirtyEight defined him as a technocrat, not identified with either the progressive or the moderate wing of the party.[65] The American Conservative Union gave Padilla a 0% rating in 2012.[66] On January 18, 2021, Padilla released a statement in support of the Green New Deal and Medicare For All legislation, among other progressive policies.[67] Padilla supports ending the filibuster.[17]

Abortion

Padilla is pro-choice, saying in 2018 that abortion rights are "not negotiable".[68] In 2008, Padilla sponsored the bill SB 1770, which would require the Commission on Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) to prepare relevant guidelines and mechanisms for the investigation and reporting of "cases involving anti-reproductive-rights crimes".[69][70] In 2018, after winning the primary for secretary of state to seek a second term, he received the support of the pro-choice organization NARAL Pro-Choice America, which called Padilla a "statewide reproductive freedom champion".[71]

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Padilla stated that it was a "radical right-wing" decision that "casts aside half a century of precedent to deny reproductive freedom to millions of Americans."[72]

Climate and environment

Padilla supports climate action and said during budgetary discussions in October 2021 that "[c]limate cannot be on the chopping block in this or any budget."[73] He supports the Green New Deal and has said that it "offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity."[67][74] Padilla received a 100% score from the League of Conservation Voters in 2021.[75]

Immigration

Padilla supports immigrants' rights.[76][77] On January 15, 2021, he said that he supports legislation sponsored by representative Joaquin Castro to speed up the citizenship process for undocumented immigrants in essential jobs, declaring that because of the work they do, "they deserve stability".[76][77]

Voting rights

Padilla has been known for efforts to expand voting access.[78] When he was appointed to the Senate in 2021, Newsom called him "a national defender of voting rights".[79]

Personal life

Padilla married Angela Monzon in 2012.[80] They have three sons and live in the San Fernando Valley's Porter Ranch neighborhood.[81] In late 2015 and early 2016, the Aliso Canyon gas leak temporarily displaced the Padillas from their home.[81]

Electoral history

State Senator

2006

California's 20th State Senate district election, 2006[82][83]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alex Padilla 24,303 55.8
Democratic Cindy Montanez 19,299 44.2
Total votes 43,602 100.0
General election
Democratic Alex Padilla 84,459 74.9
Libertarian Pamela Brown 28,377 25.1
Total votes 112,836 100.0
Democratic hold

2010

California's 20th State Senate district election, 2010[84][85]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alex Padilla (incumbent) 26,431 100.0
Total votes 26,431 100.0
General election
Democratic Alex Padilla (incumbent) 94,356 68.4
Republican Kathleen "Suzy" Evans 37,420 27.1
Libertarian Adrian Galysh 6,245 4.5
Total votes 138,051 100.0
Democratic hold

Secretary of State

2014

California Secretary of State election, 2014[86][30]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alex Padilla 1,217,371 30.24
Republican Pete Peterson 1,194,715 29.68
Democratic Leland Yee 380,361 9.45
No party preference Daniel Schnur 369,898 9.19
Democratic Derek Cressman 306,375 7.61
Republican Roy Allmond 256,668 6.38
Democratic Jeffrey H. Drobman 178,521 4.44
Green David S. Curtis 121,618 3.02
Total votes 4,025,527 100.00
Turnout   13.63
General election
Democratic Alex Padilla 3,799,711 53.63
Republican Pete Peterson 3,285,334 46.37
Total votes 7,085,045 100.00
Democratic hold

2018

California Secretary of State election, 2018[87][88]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alex Padilla (incumbent) 3,475,633 52.57
Republican Mark P. Meuser 2,047,903 30.97
Democratic Ruben Major 355,036 5.37
Republican Raul Rodriguez Jr. 330,460 5.00
Libertarian Gail Lightfoot 155,879 2.36
Green Michael Feinstein 136,725 2.07
Peace and Freedom C.T. Weber 61,375 0.93
Green Erik Rydberg 48,705 0.74
Total votes 6,611,716 100.00
General election
Democratic Alex Padilla (incumbent) 7,909,521 64.45
Republican Mark P. Meuser 4,362,545 35.55
Total votes 12,272,066 100.00
Democratic hold

See also

References

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Civic offices Preceded byRichard Alarcon Member of the Los Angeles City Councilfrom the 7th district 2000–2006 Succeeded byRichard Alarcon Preceded byRuth Galanter President of the Los Angeles City Council 2001–2006 Succeeded byEric Garcetti California Senate Preceded byRichard Alarcon Member of the California Senatefrom the 20th district 2006–2015 Succeeded byConnie Leyva Political offices Preceded byDebra Bowen Secretary of State of California 2015–2021 Succeeded byJames SchwabActing U.S. Senate Preceded byKamala Harris U.S. Senator (Class 3) from California 2021–present Served alongside: Dianne Feinstein Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byKamala Harris Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from California(Class 3) 2022 Most recent U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byRaphael Warnockas United States Senator from Georgia Order of precedence of the United States as United States Senator from California since January 20, 2021 Succeeded byGovernors of State Preceded byTommy Tuberville United States senators by seniority 98th Succeeded byJon Ossoff