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The case for Newsom to appoint Alex Padilla as California’s 1st Latino United States senator
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

Alex Padilla should be a no-brainer to replace Kamala Harris as U.S. Senator from California.

He is part of a fairly decent list of candidates Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering for Harris’ replacement when she steps down to take the oath of office as the nation’s first-ever female vice president.

There are groups that believe since Harris has Black ancestry and is female that Newsom has an obligation to replace her with a Black woman.

There are qualified Black women for sure. And it is doubtful that the qualifications of anyone who has been mentioned as a replacement can seriously be questioned although it goes without saying their political philosophies may not align perfectly with other candidates being pushed therefore earning them a “lesser qualified” moniker from groups pushing specific agendas.

The best person should be appointed and that is obviously from Newsom’s perspective.

But if we are going to interject either “making a statement”, “elevating someone who represents an underrepresented community”, or “making history” the obvious choice from a California perspective would be a Latino of Mexican heritage.

Despite California being the most Hispanic state in the union and having the history that we do, we are long overdue for a U.S. Senator that is Hispanic and who has a track record of working for the people.

Padilla is a Democrat that one must assume is a prerequisite for the job given Newsom is a Democrat. Padilla has served as California Secretary of State since 2015.

The fact the 100 percent massive mail-in election we just had went off in California without a serious hitch despite having more voters than any other state is a testament to Padilla’s career as a journeyman elected officials.

Prior to his election to Secretary of State, Padilla served as a California state senator. He was elected to the Los Angeles City Council as a 24-year-old. Two years later, he became the first Latino and the youngest person ever to serve as president of the LA City Council.

California since 1993 has been represented in the U.S. Senate by women — Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Kamala Harris — who aren’t just from Northern California but specifically San Francisco.

The year 1992 was the last time a man or a Southern Californian was a U.S. Senator from the Golden State. John Seymour’s departure started a 28-year run of an all-female and all NorCal U.S. senate team from California.

There is nothing wrong with that unless, of course, you disagree with their politics.

But given the emphasis that way too many people place on trying to have the faces of people appointed to government positions resemble those they will govern, Padilla comes out way ahead of anyone else.

For starters there are only an estimated 200,000 plus more females in California than males. Acing out males for 28 years doesn’t seem all that representative of California’s composite face.

California in 2000 became the second state — Hawaii was the first — to have a non-white majority. Since 2014 we became the first state to have a Latino majority surpassing in size all ethnic and racial groups.

California also has the largest number of Latinos of any state.

When it comes to ancestry, 25 percent of Californians — the highest number — list Mexico. Next on the list at 9 percent is Germany.

As a side note, the 47-year Padilla is one of three children born to Santos and Lupe Padilla who immigrated to the United States from Mexico and raised their family working honest blue collar jobs — Padilla’s father as a short order cook and his mother cleaning houses.

The fact California has never had a Latino represent it in the U.S. Senate is a bigger deficiency than that for any other ethnic group. And that goes way beyond mere consideration in the sheer numbers of Latinos in this state.

California’s constitution that was signed Oct. 11, 1849 in Colton Hall in Monterey by 50 people including 8 who were Californios (California-born men who spoke Spanish and lived here when the future state was still part of Mexico) at the time was done so in both English and Spanish.

The Section 21 Article XI explicitly called for all official state documents to be written in both English and Spanish this making California the first bi-lingual state.

That provision was dropped 30 years later during the State Constitution Convention conducted in Sacramento.

Mexicans were by far the majority ethic group in California even larger than the indigenous people until the Gold Rush of 1848-49 saw such a large influx of Americans, Europeans, and Asians that Latinos were reduced to 20 percent of the population.

California was “settled” by Spain in the realm of Euro-centric culture and perspective that dismissed the much different civilization of the indigenous people who had lived for centuries in what we know define as the boundaries of the Golden State.

Spain’s main focus was the area we know today as Mexico. Many Hispanics are the direct — and indirect — result of marriages between Spaniards and Indians native to the Americas they colonized.

We often forget the fact after Mexico gained its independence from Spain they governed California — a former territory of Spain for 25 years.

The dictates of Mexico were largely ignored in California not just by early American pioneers and European settlers but by Californios as well.

The República de California or Bear Flag revolt was declared on June 14, 1846. Unbeknownst to anyone taking part in the revolution thanks to slow communication of the day, Congress a month earlier had declared war on Mexico.

The U.S. Marines and Navy took Monterrey on July 9, 1846 effectively ending the Bear Republic whose military leaders toyed with the idea of staying independent or joining the United Kingdom, France or the United States. The U.S. military — cognizant of the fact California’s population was dominated by Hispanics — issued all proclamation in Spanish and English.

The very name California is rooted in Spanish. California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico are the only states that can claim such a pedigree. California by the sheer number of Spanish names on geographic features and cities — Vallejo, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sierra, San Joaquin, Monterey, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sonoma, Sonora, Santa Barbara, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, and so on — is clearly anchored in Spanish and therefore Hispanic culture.

Besides the underrepresented aspect and historic angle, Padilla is clearly a strong candidate to represent this state in Washington, D.C. He’s a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Padilla worked briefly as an engineer with Hughes Aircraft writing software for satellites. He also has served in the governing board of MIT.

Padilla is a hard-working elected official from blue collar roots, the son of parents who moved to the Golden State to build a better life for their family, who worked hard to get a good education, and is a family man whose life epitomizes the California Dream.

Padilla will make a solid U.S. Senator.