Alex Padilla, the son of Mexican immigrants who has ascended through all levels of California politics, will assume the US Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports, giving the state its first Latino senator in its history. Padilla is in his second term as California's secretary of state. "Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council, and the State Senate," Newsom said in a statement, per the Hill, "and has become a national defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State." In that job, Padilla argued against President Trump's claims after the 2016 election that millions of illegal ballots were cast in the state. The next year, he refused to give voter information to Trump's voter fraud panel.
Padilla earned a degree in mechanical engineering and developed software for satellites before entering politics. Now 47, he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council when he was 26. "There is a great deal of pride about a barrio boy going to MIT and coming back," a community activist said at the time. His father had worked as a short-order cook and his mother, who became a US citizen two days after her son's first election, as a house cleaner. Newsom, who had felt pressure to select a Black or Latino senator, brought up Padilla's parents when he made his announcement. "Can you imagine what Mom would be thinking now as I ask you if you want to be the next US senator of the United States from the great state of California?" Newsom asked in a video released by his office. Padilla, becoming emotional, said, "Are you serious?" He'll serve until the term expires in 2022. (Gavin Newsom wasn't looking forward to making the decision.)