Alex Padilla, Shirley Weber Make California History in New Roles

Months of back-channel lobbying by California's political factions culminated Tuesday with Gov. Gavin. Newsom bequeathing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

That gave Californians their first Latino senator but it deprives the 100-member chamber of any Black female representation. That put even more pressure on Newsom to name a woman of color to the posts vacated by Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who’s joining Joe Biden’s cabinet.

The AG post—coveted for being a springboard for higher office—has attracted interest from the Asian-Pacific Islander community, who’ve floated Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) as a reformer who could help undo harsh sentencing laws that filled the state’s prisons and jails. Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), has been gunning for the same role, touting his experience as a former public defender.

As for the Secretary of State gig, Newsom was positioned to make it a consolation prize for a contender bypassed for the Senate seat—which a number of groups hoped would go to another Black woman, with Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass topping the list.

Some of the names bandied about for the position included Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez and Silicon Valley’s own Evan Low. Gonzalez, a labor-loyal Democrat, has openly courted the job. Low has taken a more wait-and-see approach, telling reporters Tuesday he plans “to serve in whatever capacity I can best contribute.”

The only person who’s donated to Low’s exploratory committee for a 2022 Secretary of State run happened to fit the profile Newsom was looking for, too: African-American Assemblywoman Autumn Burke.

Ultimately, in a surprisingly speedy decision, Newsom extended the offer to one of Burke’s colleagues. And with that, Shirley Weber—who’s taken on tough legislative fights over police brutality and racial injustice—becomes the fourth woman and first Black woman to hold the position in California history.

CADEM Chair Rusty Hicks applauded the appointments as major milestones.

The head of the state party commended Weber’s “dedication to uphold our democratic process,” which he said “she began at an early age as she led efforts to expand voting rights for our most vulnerable communities.”

“Her passion and people-powered advocacy work was demonstrated in her legislative agenda,” he continued in a news release Tuesday. “As a civil rights leader, she passed legislation to address food insecurity, paved the way for those who are often underrepresented and made it easier for all Californians to vote. In her very own words, ‘never allow one crisis, one event, one mishap or one misstep to take us down.’ In solidarity, CADEM is beyond thrilled to continue the work of reaching for a more perfect union with California’s Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber.”

Low echoed the praise, calling Weber an “outstanding choice.”

“Anything is possible when passion meets purpose, and Assemblywoman Weber—who will become the first Black woman to hold the position—has been all about equity and results during her impressive career,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “She is an educator first and foremost, and her floor speeches were can’t-miss viewing. I have been honored to work alongside her in breaking down barriers to voting access, and I have been grateful for her allyship with the LGBTQ+ community. Our elections will be safe in her hands. I look forward to working with our next Secretary of State to modernize our voting systems while ensuring the voices of all California voters are heard.”

The Latino Leadership Alliance, one of 33 organizations to endorse Padilla as Harris’ successor, called Newsom’s decision a step in the right direction.

“In a year in which communities of color disproportionately shouldered the impacts of this global health pandemic and its economic fallout, it has never been more clear why our voice must be at the table, why our communities must be represented,” the coalition wrote in a statement issued to reporters Tuesday. “Today’s appointment is one step in that direction, and we applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking it. Secretary of State Alex Padilla has worked tirelessly to ensure voting access to all Californians. He has the qualifications and experience to be an excellent leader and provide the proper representation for the Latino community and all Californians.”

Send a tip to The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

6 Comments

  1. > The Latino Leadership Alliance, one of 33 organizations to endorse Padilla as Harris’ successor, called Newsom’s decision a step in the right direction.

    Did anyone call Newson’s decision a step in the wrong direction?

    Nobody?

    Great! Everyone agrees and Gavin Newsom is our Governor!

    How could California be so lucky?!

  2. Dr. King would be so proud.

    Imagine judging someone by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

    Which is more important to The Fly?

  3. It is the “progressives” that did not like Alex Padilla. They wanted Barbara Lee or Karen Bass to replace #KamalaHarris Remember these progressives wanted Bernie Sanders to be president and did not support Kamala. London Breed supported Bloomberg not #KamalaHarrisForThePeople. Thus, they did not care about the Black woman running for president. Willie Brown even sent a message to Kamala suggesting she should not try to be VP. This group back then wanted Bass or Lee to be VP. Kamala Harris did what no other Black leader has done. She created an alliance with all the people not just the Black group. In a state where the two largest groups are Latino and White, that was a smart move. The Latino community supported Kamala over Castro based on character and her ability to win. It was not loyalty with Gavin Newson or Willie Brown that placed Padilla and Kamala where they are now! It was hard work and experience. Willie Brown should know he is a zero to the left in the California political arena. Kamala Harris is a super start! Go Kami! I have supported you from the beginning, and believe you will be president one of these years. Y al que le pique que se rasque!

  4. > Kamala Harris did what no other Black leader has done. She created an alliance with all the people not just the Black group.

    Kamala Harris is a Black leader? You’re kidding?

    She has more white privilege in her family tree than than White Anglo Saxon Protestant Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren.

    Kamala’s paternal great great grandpappy was a slave owner in Jamaica.

    Kamala’s maternal great great grandpappy was an Indian Brahmin.

    We can safely assume that Kamala’s personal narrative is as phony as Warren’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *