Meet Alex Padilla, California’s first Latino U.S. senator

Individuals have been saying Alex Padilla is a politician to look at since he was in his early 20s.

The Massachusetts Institute of Know-how-trained engineer gave up a profession in aerospace to enter politics at an early age. At 26, he grew to become Los Angeles’ youngest council member. Then, he went on to be the face of metropolis authorities within the days after the 9/11 terrorist assaults.

That introduced him nationwide prominence. “This could solely be useful, if you wish to be crude within the political sense, to no matter future plans he has,” one political advisor mentioned of Padilla on the time.

Now, he’s set to grow to be California’s first Latino U.S. senator, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the term of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Formative years

Padilla grew up in Pacoima, the center child of a Mexican-born housekeeper and a short-order cook who had been decided to see their youngsters succeed.

He usually mentioned his upbringing there had a significant affect on his life.


Padilla was educated as an engineer at MIT after which returned house to put in writing software program for satellites at Hughes Plane. However politics beckoned at an early age.

Metropolis Council

At 22, he ran the profitable Meeting marketing campaign of Tony Cardenas, then a little-known proprietor of an actual property company. Cardenas is now a congressman representing the San Fernando Valley. Padilla later managed the bare-knuckled 1998 marketing campaign that propelled Richard Alarcon right into a state Senate seat by a mere 29 votes.

In 1999, Padilla jumped into the race for Alarcon’s former council seat. He was barely identified outdoors political circles, however he put collectively a potent cadre of backers, together with labor unions and then-L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. Padilla received by a landslide.

He made historical past when he took workplace. As The Instances reported: “26-year-old Alex Padilla grew to become the youngest member of the Los Angeles Metropolis Council, taking the oath of workplace administered by 87-year-old former Councilman Ernani Bernardi.”

He supplied a particular tribute to his mother and father.

“A teary-eyed Padilla devoted his first time period to his mother and father, Santos and Lupe, immigrants from Mexico. He mentioned that his mom grew to become a U.S. citizen two days after his election, and three years after his father took the citizenship oath,” mentioned The Instances article on his swearing-in ceremony.

Two years after his election, Padilla shocked the previous guard at Metropolis Corridor by beating a veteran council member, Ruth Galanter, to win sufficient votes on the Metropolis Council to grow to be president of that physique. At 28, he grew to become the youngest particular person and first Latino to function council president in additional than 100 years. However his tenure was not without controversy, with some saying his lack of experience was an issue.

Padilla’s rise in politics — together with that of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — was seen on the time as a watershed second for Latino illustration within the metropolis. A 2005 Instances article made clear Padilla was seen as going locations:

When Latino leaders gathered just lately to rejoice the election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles, White Home aide Ruben Barrales instructed them it was nice to welcome “a dynamic Latino chief” with “limitless political potential.”

“However sufficient about Alex Padilla,” he concluded.

As Metropolis Council president, Padilla performed a task within the number of William Bratton as chief of police and was concerned in negotiations for approval of the downtown improvement referred to as L.A. Dwell, in addition to modernization of Los Angeles Worldwide Airport. Padilla additionally strongly opposed an effort to have the Valley secede from Los Angeles to kind a brand new metropolis.


A pivotal second in Padilla’s profession got here through the 9/11 terrorist assaults when he served as performing mayor for 4 days whereas Mayor Jim Hahn was caught in Washington, D.C. Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor who served with Padilla on the Metropolis Council, recalled being with Padilla when there was a report that one of many planes hijacked by terrorists is perhaps heading into Los Angeles, although that later proved to be false.

“Padilla has been omnipresent on Los Angeles radio and tv. He has assuaged and warranted time and again, in English and Spanish, displaying way more polish than his 28 years and his rocky begin as council president might need recommended,” The Instances wrote in a profile that year.

State senator

In 2006, Padilla received election to the state Senate, to which he was reelected in 2010.

His state Senate tenure, which was ended by time period limits, included an emphasis on well being and issues of safety. He received approval of a invoice that requires California eating places to put up calorie data on their menus to assist scale back weight problems. He additionally authored a smoke-free housing regulation.

Secretary of state

Padilla has been secretary of state since 2015 and was one of the first statewide officials to tangle with President Trump over his unfounded allegations in 2016 that hundreds of thousands of California ballots had been solid illegally. In 2017, Padilla rejected requests by Trump’s voter fraud fee for entry to detailed voter data from the state, citing privateness issues.

His most notable achievement as chief elections officer was his push for enactment of the state’s Voter’s Selection Act, permitting counties to swap out neighborhood polling locations for group vote facilities so long as additionally they mailed a poll to each registered voter. However one other high-profile program — the state’s computerized voter registration program at DMV places of work — was beset by a variety of errors when it debuted in 2019.

When interviewed by Excessive College Insider, Padilla was requested to provide recommendation for teenagers getting involved in political life.

“It’s so much simpler and extra essential than you suppose,” he mentioned. “Lots of people assume that it’s worthwhile to know any individual. You don’t have to know any individual.”