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Alex Padilla, California’s first Latino senator, on the need to ‘walk and chew gum’ in Washington

LOS ANGELES – As Kamala Harris steps into her role as vice president and leaves her Senate office this week, Democrat Alex Padilla will become the first Latino senator from California, a state where Latin American residents make up 40 percent of the population , and will be one of six senators. Mr. Padilla, who has served as California’s secretary of state since 2015, is traveling to Washington at a time when the country – and California – is deeply mired in the pandemic and the slow rollout of vaccines. His own political career began with immigration activism, and he believes the country needs a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. He said he was confident the Senate would be able to focus on an impeachment trial and the pressing need to bring the pandemic under control – “we’ll be walking and chewing gum at the same time.”

These are slightly edited excerpts from the conversation.

California is about 40% Latino, but you are the state’s first Latino senator. Why do you think it took so long? What does he say about California and the political influence of Latinos?

I’m not sure if I have a 170-year-old answer to this question, but it’s a big time for the Latino community in California. I’m sure there are a lot of researchers and academics with various theories. I just know that this just added to the sense of urgency with which I am ready to undertake the job.

There are a lot of big issues that need to be addressed – increasing access to health care, tackling climate change, comprehensive immigration reform, closing the education gap. But for now, it’s all through the prism of Covid, in recognition of the devastation the damage has caused to far too many families, far too many communities, especially Latin American communities and other communities of color.

Let’s talk about the pandemic. Los Angeles is currently an epicenter of the pandemic, and Pacoima, the neighborhood you grew up in, is the epicenter of that epicenter. What can the Senate do about it?

That’s a great example of people saying, well, you know, don’t take it too personally. Well, I can’t help but take it personally. My dad lives there and we have managed to keep him safe and healthy since March. But I think about his safety every day.

From the start, communities of color, the essential workers, who Latinos disproportionately make up, are at heightened risk due to the nature of their work. We contract it, and it affects us disproportionately compared to other communities. And that’s what’s happening right now.

I just wish so many other governors had taken the bold and aggressive steps our governor took. We were able to keep the per capita numbers relatively lower for much of 2020, compared to other states, including neighboring Arizona.

Here’s what breaks my heart, you know, catching the morning news and hearing about the Dow Jones, Dow Jones record. But if you go to Covid test sites or food banks, you see increasingly long lines. This contrast is heartbreaking.

I know Governor Gavin Newsom has been a long-time ally and he just appointed you. But given the infection rates here and the slow pace of vaccine rollout, it seems odd to congratulate him. Do you really think he’s doing a good job at the moment?

I think he was treated harshly by the Trump administration. It is clear that there will be a next phase of the vaccine, but it is really difficult to plan the next phase of the vaccine deployment when you don’t know when the next batch of vaccine will arrive. I know Donald Trump is not up for this. His failure or refusal to lead since day one of the pandemic is what has caused this mess across the country.

Democrats are going to have an extremely busy agenda – do you think impeachment will stop them? Do you want to see a trial in the Senate?

It may lengthen workdays or longer work weeks, but we must prioritize the Covid response and stand up for our democracy and our responsibility, our responsibility and our accountability. No one is above the law. This is what the Americans believe. And they deserve a Congress that will act on it.

So is there any doubt in your mind that you want to see some action on this?

Absolutely. And as I talk to more and more of my coworkers, I hear loud and clear as we can and we will be walking and chewing gum at the same time. We must.

Your own political career grew out of your immigration activism. I have spoken to many current immigration activists who are very skeptical about whether the Biden administration will make the kind of sweeping changes they want to see. Do you share this skepticism?

No state has more at stake in this debate than this one. Look, I’m an optimist, but I know full well this is going to take a lot of work and I can’t wait to get there. I think we need normalization and a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the country. Much of the essential workforce we have hired since the start of the pandemic is undocumented. It is not enough to cancel the decrees signed by Donald Trump. We must go further and propose a comprehensive reform of immigration. So it can be difficult, but I know that we may have to rebuild the asylum system at the border, among other things. Today let’s talk about the wait times for the naturalization process for eligible citizens.

How concerned are you about the future of the elections? Are the doubts that the president and other Republicans sowed undermine democracy?

Doubt is a huge danger and it is not just a potential danger. We’ve seen the fatal consequences of having a conspiracy theorist with a megaphone sitting in the Oval Office. Buteven with the departure of Trump, we have a lot of work to do before the next election. Misinformation, misinformation is extremely dangerous. We are already seeing it play into the distribution of vaccines and the lack of confidence in some communities of the vaccine and therefore a reluctance perhaps to take it as soon as possible.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has campaigned for unity, and I think that will be a theme of his speech on Wednesday. How optimistic are you or not that unity is something that can happen in our country, given the past four years and weeks?

Unity is truly a value. You know, we are not going to reach utopia in a day, a week or even a year. But it will be something that we strive for. I hope this will manifest itself in the working environment in the Congress halls. But it’s also important to perform at salons and possibly at dinner parties and hair salons across America.

Democrats have a slight advantage in the Senate. Do you think that means there will be more ambitious action, more ambitious legislation?

I certainly hope so. Look, we have to think big. It’s gonna be my feeling. Even without last year’s pandemic, in addition to the health and economic devastation that Covid has caused to many communities, it has also exacerbated many underlying disparities, which really need to be addressed. Education, for example, with so many young people learning, trying to learn from a distance, has brought back concerns about the digital divide, whether it be broadband access or digital literacy, or even the affordable price of devices. So there was an education deficit before the pandemic and the evidence shows that it is exacerbated by the pandemic. This is just one example.

Where are you on the political spectrum? Do you expect to be somehow on the more progressive side of the caucus, or do you consider yourself moderate?

I can’t wait to get to the Senate and start pushing the boundaries.

Travel News

Meet Alex Padilla, the next senator from California

[Read the full interview with Dr. Weber.]

As Shawn reported last week, the father of Dr Weber, an Arkansas tenant farmer who fled racist violence in California, was only lucky enough to vote in his 30s. But once the family moved to Los Angeles, their living room served as a polling station.

“We knew, as children, how important it was to vote and how important it was that my mom and dad were denied the right to vote,” said Dr Weber.

And now Mr Newsom has only one choice to complete his historic overhaul of state leadership: he did not choose a successor to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is the choice of President-elect Joseph R Biden Jr. to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

When Shawn spoke to Mr. Padilla just before Thanksgiving, he was baking pumpkin chili for his family. Now we have the recipe, from the new California Senator himself, below:

In a slow cooker, place the following ingredients and cook for at least 4 hours:

  • 1 to 1.25 pounds of seasoned beef, browned and cubed *

  • 2 cups of raw pumpkin, cubed

  • ½ onion, diced

  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

  • 1 15 oz can black beans

  • 1 15 oz can white beans **

  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice

Salt to taste.

*** Optional, but I like to add: 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 basil leaf, 2 cloves of garlic

* Don’t hesitate to try different meats. I made this recipe with chicken, ground beef, and even grated turkey.

** You can really use any type of beans. I used spicy black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, northern white beans. You can use two cans of the same type of beans, but I like to use different beans to vary the flavor.

Travel News

Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in Senate

Ms. Lee, on Twitter, congratulated Mr. Padilla as “a competent legislator and an ardent defender of justice”. “I believe he will be a powerful voice in the Senate for those who continue to be denied our country’s equality promise,” she said.

Nathalies Rayes, president and CEO of the Latino Victory Fund, which had campaigned for Mr. Padilla, called the appointment a “long-awaited milestone for the Latin American community” and a “bold step towards a Senate that looks like communities. serves. He added, “His appointment will not only increase Latin American representation in the Senate, but will also open the door for future generations of Latino leaders.

Senior California Senator Dianne Feinstein endorsed Mr. Padilla, who had worked in his field office early in his career. But other interest groups wanted Ms Feinstein herself to resign – a call that gained traction after a New Yorker article this month suggesting Ms Feinstein, 87, was experiencing cognitive decline.

Mr Padilla’s rise leaves Mr Newsom with a vacancy in the Secretary of State’s office, a potential consolation prize for at least one disappointed candidate. He will also need to appoint a new attorney general if the Senate confirms Xavier Becerra’s appointment as Biden’s health and social services secretary.

The post of Attorney General, in particular, has served in recent years as a springboard to higher positions; Besides Mr. Becerra, recent attorneys general include Ms. Harris and former California Governor Jerry Brown.

Alex Vassar, legislative historian at the California State Library, said the last California governor to hold three offices statewide was Earl Warren, who in December 1952 and January 1953 appointed a new senator, a state comptroller and a member of the State Equalization Council. Pat Brown also made three appointments in 1964 and 1965, Vassar said, but one was simply to speed up the arrival of a new senator.

In sending Mr. Padilla to the Senate, Mr. Newsom chose a Democrat of his own generation who stood by the governor’s side and solidified his Latino support in several critical races. He also picked an experienced candidate who has been elected twice statewide and whose work since 2014 has dramatically expanded California’s voting ease and electorate size.

Travel News

What Alex Padilla wants California voters to know


Early voting, including postal voting, in this election has decimated records in states across the country, including California, where more than 6.5 million ballots have already been returned, according to the state.

Yet over the weekend, California voters lined up to vote early at dozens of newly opened polling stations, including, for the first time, Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Hundreds more will open on October 30.

On Thursday, I spoke with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla about what voters should know at the end of the period, especially if they plan to vote in person. Here’s our conversation, slightly edited for clarity:

How are things going? What is the biggest challenge you are concerned about right now?

Californians vote in large numbers. We’re about 2.5 times where we were at this point in 2016, if that’s any indicator.

We’ve been planning and preparing for months. And if voter registration and early returns are any indication, there will be a high turnout.

But we don’t take anything for granted, so we are on high alert, including election news or misinformation.

I know that, relatively speaking, the Crash republican ballot box touched few voters. But it got a lot of attention and raised a lot of concerns. What’s the latest on this situation? And what should voters know?

The latest is that the Attorney General and I have issued cease and desist orders and have requested the removal of unauthorized unofficial ballot boxes. Unofficial boxes were removed, but other elements of our inquiries were not honored. So the Attorney General has issued subpoenas and we are taking the matter to court.

[Read more about the California Republican Party’s misleadingly labeled ballot boxes from The New York Times here. | Read the latest on the fight from The Los Angeles Times here.]

In the meantime, we are working hard to inform voters of their many options for returning their ballots.

Return shipping costs are prepaid and they can also return them to any official drop box in their county. If they have cast their ballot in an unofficial ballot box, they should register for “Where’s my ballot?” or contact their county by email, text or phone call to confirm that their ballot has been received.

If not, they can contact their county to request a replacement ballot if necessary.

But that’s part of the additional information sought by the cease-and-desist order, and the Republican Party did not provide: how many ballot boxes there were, how many ballots they collected , which makes it more difficult to educate the voters concerned. So these efforts continue.

[How to find an official ballot box near you.]

What are you telling the counties about how to keep voters safe if they go to the polls? What should they know poll observers or other people who may be at the polls but do not vote?

We go through every election. We want to make sure the elections are as safe as possible and secure during a global pandemic.

Sensitivities are certainly heightened in November 2020, but we have reminded counties and pollsters of what state law says. Election observation is allowed, but that’s just it: observation.

We have a Voters Bill of Rights which states that voters are free to vote without harassment or intimidation. Polling officers are properly trained to answer questions and defuse situations, if necessary.

We encourage the public to let us know if they see anything. We have a statewide election hotline that is already active. We have developed protocols to work with the counties in the event of a problem.

[Read California’s full Voter Bill of Rights here.]

Do you have specific areas that you are monitoring?

Not yet.

One final thought for voters who are considering voting in person?

I compare it to going to the grocery store: it’s not the same thing anymore.

Expect to see signage for physical distance, material wiped between voters, hand sanitizer everywhere. We want in-person voting to remain as safe, healthy and accessible as possible – for voters and election workers.

[See The Times’s full voter guide for Californians, with information about how, when and where to cast your ballot. | Leer en español.]

Learn more about the election:

Find out where to vote with this interactive. [The New York Times]

Learn more about Proposition 22. [The New York Times]

  • Representative Nancy Pelosi said she will run for another term as President of the House. [The New York Times]

  • Many progressives mistrust senator Kamala Harris for her past as a prosecutor. A former convict – and also the son of a crime victim – explained why it was not that simple. [The New York Times Magazine]

(This article is part of California today newsletter. Register to have it delivered to your inbox.)

  • New fires broke out and residents of Northern California faced power outages under the effect of hurricane-type winds, increasing the risk of fire. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

Follow updates on new fires. [Record Searchlight]

And check out updates on power outages. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • the the waters off Catalina Island have become a dumping ground for DDT. But even as the chemical was banned and cleanups ordered, the contamination of the deep sea has become murky – until now. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Rural California is divided and armed for revolt. But this was the case in the self-proclaimed “State of Jefferson” for decades. Is this year different? [The Sacramento Bee]

  • A man who identified himself as far-right Boogaloo Bois has been accused of shooting at a police station in Minneapolis during protests after the murder of George Floyd. Federal authorities say he contacted the man accused of killing a federal officer in Oakland during the protests. [The Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Learn more about Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant with links to an anti-government movement, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder linked to that murder. [The New York Times]

  • Governor Gavin Newsom said Sunday will be Larry Itliong’s day. Learn more about the legacy of the Filipino union leader here. [The New York Times]

  • Two masked (and furry) youths have been charged with breaking into a Bay Area bank. But they were driven out by the Peninsula Humane Society without incident. (OK, those were juvenile raccoons.) [SF Gate]

  • This year there is no spray in baseball. Not before the end of the World Series, anyway. (Although, thanks to a chaotic end to the flip-flop of a game on Saturday night, the Dodgers and Rays have yet to get there.) [The New York Times]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at UC Berkeley, and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she still wants see more. Follow us here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.