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California Secretary Of State Alex Padilla To Replace Harris In U.S. Senate

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

California's governor, Gavin Newsom, has named his pick to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate. The state's secretary of state, Alex Padilla, will fill the seat. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Scott Shafer has more.

SCOTT SHAFER, BYLINE: Forty percent of California's population is Latino. Alex Padilla, the son of working-class immigrants from Mexico, will be the state's first Latino U.S. senator. He sees the American dream reflected in himself and his family.

ALEX PADILLA: To think that in one generation, you know, my family's gone from being the cooks and the house cleaners to now not just serving as one of the constitutional officers for the state of California but being a member of the United States Senate, it's pretty incredible.

SHAFER: Padilla grew up in Los Angeles before leaving for college at MIT, where he majored in engineering. But he soon realized his passion was politics after California voters passed a ballot measure, Proposition 187, preventing people who came to the U.S. illegally from getting state services.

PADILLA: To hear this message that the state of California is struggling and it's the fault of families like yours and people like your parents, it was offensive. It was insulting. It was enraging. And so, yes, I committed myself to public service after that.

SHAFER: At the age of 26, he won a seat on the LA City Council, then headed to the state Senate before getting elected secretary of state. Padilla's appointment has disappointed some, like San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who wanted the governor to name a Black woman to replace Kamala Harris.

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LONDON BREED: Definitely, this is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general.

SHAFER: In Padilla, Newsom tapped someone who has already won two state elections. He'll face another in two years when Harris' current term ends.

For NPR News, I'm Scott Shafer in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.