SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein has picked a favorite in the fight to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as California’s junior senator: Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Feinstein said Wednesday she supports Padilla, California’s top elections official, and noted his Hispanic heritage. California has never had a Hispanic U.S. senator.
“I have given him my support. I did that quite a while ago,” she said, according to Politico. “And my sense is that he’s going to represent California very well.”
But ultimately it’s up to Gov. Gavin Newsom to decide. He has the power to appoint someone to the job through 2022, when Harris’ term was set to end. Harris will be inaugurated as vice president on Jan. 20 and hasn’t said when she plans to vacate her Senate seat.
Padilla, 47, would be California’s first Hispanic senator, bringing greater representation in Washington to roughly 40% of his state’s population. Hailing from Southern California, he would shake up the power dynamic that has favored Northern California politicians in the state’s top seats. Harris and Feinstein are both from the San Francisco Bay Area, though Harris now splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington.
He is a longtime ally of Newsom’s and is also viewed as someone who could win re-election in 2022, having already won statewide races twice for secretary of state.
Feinstein adds her voice to a chorus of people publicly and privately sharing their opinions on who should get the seat. She told reporters Newsom is aware of her preference, but it’s not clear how much sway she holds. The Latino Victory Fund and the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus also support Padilla.
Newsom is also facing pressure to appoint a Black woman. Harris is the only Black woman currently in the Senate. Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Karen Bass are among potential choices.
“We are working through the cattle call of considerations,” Newsom said in November. “I want to make sure it’s inclusive, I want to make sure that we are considerate of people’s points of view.”
Harris has not thrown her support behind any candidate publicly.