The son of two Mexican immigrants who settled in Pacoima, Padilla graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then made the unlikely jump into politics in his mid-20s. Like many of California’s most powerful Latino politicians today, Padilla says the impetus was Proposition 187, the 1994 California ballot measure that blocked public education and non-essential services to undocumented immigrants.
Since then, Padilla has steadily climbed the ranks of California political power: From staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Los Angeles City Council member to state senator to California’s Secretary of State. It was early during his state Senate career when Padilla made the fateful decision to support then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom in his 2014 unsuccessful campaign for governor. That cemented a political alliance that made Padilla an obvious choice when Newsom was elected governor four years later and was tasked with filling a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. senator (appointed)
The first Latino to represent the Latino-plurality state of California in the U.S. Senate. Newsom picked Padilla to take the place of Kamala Harris after she was elected vice president. Harris swore Padilla into office.
A reliably liberal vote within the Democratic caucus, Padilla’s first bill was an unsuccessful proposal to give undocumented essential workers a fast track to citizenship. He also joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as a co-author for a “Medicare for All” bill and called for an end of the Senate’s filibuster.
California Secretary of State
The state’s premier voter registration evangelist, Padilla sponsored legislation to automatically register voters when they apply for a driver’s license and to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
Oversaw the test of the Voter Choice Act, which allowed a handful of counties to mail ballots to voters prior to the election and set up polling stations two weeks before Election Day. This year, 28 counties will use the program.
California state senator
“In one generation our family has gone from being the immigrant cooks and house cleaners to serving in the United States Senate. That’s the California dream. That’s the American dream.”
Here’s where Alex Padilla, applicant for U.S. Senate, stands on the big questions facing California.
California’s Democratic leaders positioned the state as a sanctuary for people seeking abortions in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. Some say that the ruling could also lead to the court reconsidering its ruling that made gay marriage a constitutional right. Bills to codify abortion rights and gay marriage in federal law are before Congress.
We must protect women’s reproductive rights and freedoms by making Roe the law of the land. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate that would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. I will continue fighting to protect the right to choose at the national level, and I will work to ensure that access to abortion services are protected in California and for those who travel here from out of state.
The right to marry who you love shouldn’t be up for debate. We must pass legislation at the federal level — such as the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act — that protects the civil rights of all LGBTQ+ Americans, including the right to same-sex marriage.
I’m proud of California’s leadership in protecting the right to an abortion for all. Our message to women across the country is clear: Our doors are open — and we will protect your right to make decisions about your own body and future. I recently co-led the introduction of legislation to protect abortion providers in states such as California where abortion remains legal, and I’m a proud supporter of Proposition 1, which would enshrine the right to an abortion in our state Consitution.
Many Americans are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal government has an important role to play in that recovery. That includes extending the Affordable Care Act’s enhanced premium subsidies so families can afford health care. I’m proud we successfully included this extension in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which will help keep premiums low for millions of Calfornians. And the reality is, many health and income disparities existed long before the pandemic, which is why I’ll continue to advocate for long-term solutions such as making the child-tax credit permanent, Medicare for All, and universal basic income.
I’m proud the Senate recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower health care premiums and prescription drug costs for millions of Californians, while enacting a historic deficit reduction to fight inflation. I will continue working to lower costs for families, including by advocating for policies like the child tax credit, affordable housing, universal child care, paid family and sick leave, cracking down on exorbitant oil company profits, and Medicare for All.
As California records some of its driest years in history, we have to accept that our current climate is fundamentally different and what worked in the past may no longer work today. I’m working on securing funding for new ways to conserve water. I helped secure $8 billion in water infrastructure investments for California in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These investments will be used for projects that include groundwater restoration, regional water reuse, and sustainable desalination. I’m also working on securing federal funding for stormwater reuse and groundwater recharge projects. As we address worsening droughts, I will continue to focus on solutions that are dependable for the long-term.
Absolutely. I successfully worked with the Biden administration to restore California’s ability to independently regulate vehicle emissions, and I’ve called on the EPA to set more stringent greenhouse gas emission standards at the national level.
The federal government can and should lead the way in the fight against the climate crisis. We just pushed forward a once-in-a-generation bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, that will do just that. This historic legislation will lower our carbon emissions and invest billions in clean jobs, reduce pollution, support drought resiliency, bolster wildfire prevention, and preserve our coasts and public lands. It’s a historic step forward in the fight against climate change — but we know it’s not enough and we need to incorporate climate action into every aspect of policymaking. That’s why I’m a proud supporter of the Green New Deal.
The federal government owns 57% of the forests in California, and wildfire prevention is an existential issue for the state. I have led the charge to add additional staff to the Forest Service so it can conduct additional wildfire prevention projects, and I helped secure significant investments in both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to fund its wildfire management efforts. These investments and additional staff will allow the Forest Service to better manage our federal forests to make them more resilient against catastrophic wildfires.
Offshore oil spills have been catastrophic for our oceans, our economy, and our coastal communities. It’s time for us to get serious about safeguarding our environment and working towards a more sustainable future. That’s why I’ve co-sponsored the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to ban oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.
California’s affordable housing crisis only deepened during the pandemic, as average home prices surged even further out of reach for many families. Homelessness likely worsened as well, prompting Gov. Newsom to propose forcing more homeless and mentally ill people into treatment. The Legislature twice extended a statewide eviction moratorium, but the final protections for renters ended on March 31.
Housing is a human right. As we continue to face the historic affordable housing and homelessness crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to take all levels of government working together to tackle this crisis. The federal government has a key role to play in leveraging the unmatched financial resources at our disposal, and I’ve introduced comprehensive legislation that would make a nearly $532 billion federal investment to address the affordable housing shortage and strengthen proven, locally-developed solutions to end homelessness.
It is critical that we invest federal funds in a wide array of housing programs to support construction of new affordable housing, which will help relieve the housing shortage at all income levels, with an emphasis on helping our most vulnerable populations.
Neighborhood zoning and planning is largely a local and state level issue. I believe the federal government can best support state and local governments by providing additional resources to help fund the construction of more affordable housing and help people afford their rent, both of which are key pillars of my Housing for All Act. I’m particularly focused on incentivizing more transit-oriented development to spur more housing construction near transit so that people can live closer to job centers and reduce their reliance on cars and the associated climate impacts.
Californians are increasingly concerned about crime, though the numbers paint a more complicated picture. California has some of the country’s strictest gun laws, but Gov. Newsom and others want to pass more, namely to allow private citizens to sue gun manufacturers over illegal assault weapons and “ghost guns.” He and Democrats are also reacting to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded gun rights and put a target on California gun laws.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn New York’s gun safety law on concealed carry permits will make our communities less safe. If the Supreme Court won’t put the safety of Americans first, we will. We recently passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law and will enact critical life-saving gun safety measures and make investments in mental health. This is an important first step, and I’m looking forward to building upon this legislation to advance more common-sense solutions that will save lives.
I’m proud of California and of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s leadership on gun safety reform. The laws that we’ve passed in our state are some of the toughest in the nation, and they’ve proven effective in saving lives. But a patchwork of state laws isn’t a long term solution, and it’s critical that we build on our recent success with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation at the federal level.
I believe it’s important that we ensure our law enforcement agencies have the ability to focus on stopping crime rather than having to respond to non-emergency calls. That’s why I’ve been proud to secure over $5.5 million in federal funding for community crisis response service programs to support mental health and improve public safety across the state.
The state is building a new agency to regulate Google, Facebook and other internet giants. A bill before the Legislature would hold social media companies liable for promoting apps and features that addict and damage kids’ mental health.
As a father of three young children, I share the concerns of many parents when it comes to the potential dangers of social media. It is critical that we take steps to protect our children online while maintaining the privacy and encryption protections that are critical to so many internet users. This is not an easy balance to strike, and it’s one that my colleagues and I in the Senate are currently working through.
A logjam of legislation on climate change, guns, voting rights and more in the U.S. Senate is renewing the debate on whether to change the filibuster rule, which generally requires 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to cut off debate and vote on a bill. At the same time, recent contentious rulings on abortion rights and other issues is focusing attention on the power of the U.S. Supreme Court. And all of this is happening during investigations by a House select committee and the Justice Department into the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
I unequivocally support abolishing the Senate filibuster rule, and I have tirelessly advocated for its elimination. As long as the filibuster remains in place, Republicans will continue to impede progress on important issues such as immigration reform, women’s reproductive rights, voting rights and so much more.
From striking down the right to an abortion to overturning state efforts to prevent gun violence, the Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority is rewriting history and undoing hard-won progress. The Supreme Court is facing a crisis of legitimacy, and Congress must work to blunt the impact of these extreme rulings. We need to thoughtfully rebalance and reform the Court, and I’m open to various proposals to do that. I recently co-sponsored legislation, the Supreme Court Review Act, that would act as a check on activist Supreme Court decisions, because policymaking belongs in the halls of Congress — not the Supreme Court.
In the face of escalating attacks on voting rights and the integrity of our elections, the federal government must step up to ensure that our elections remain free and fair, and accurately reflect the will of voters. I was proud to implement reforms here in California as the former Secretary of State to make our elections the most inclusive in the nation, and I’ve fought to pass those same reforms at the federal level. I won’t stop fighting to safeguard our elections and to protect Americans’ access to the ballot box nationwide.
Trump must be held accountable. Period. No one is above the law — not even former presidents. One of the first votes I took was to impeach former President Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. The January 6 Committee has provided further evidence that Trump not only incited the violent insurrection to overturn our election on Jan. 6, he was derelict in his duties as commander in chief by refusing to stop it. I am encouraged by the steps the Department of Justice is taking to make progress in their investigation to hold those responsible accountable and protect our democracy.