LOS ANGELES – California Gov. Gavin Newsom today named Alex Padilla to fill the U.S. Senate seat to become vacant when Kamala Harris becomes Vice President of the United States.

Padilla, who is currently Secretary of State, will be the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) issued the following statement on today’s historic appointment:

“Governor Newsom’s historic announcement today recognizes the hard work and creative leadership of Alex Padilla.  Padilla’s breadth of government experience at state and local level equip him well to serve in the Senate.  Based on our previous work with him, at MALDEF, we particularly look forward to the leadership he will bring on issues of voting and access to the ballot.  Padilla is a proven leader on increasing participation in voting at a time when too many national leaders are flirting with increased voting restrictions out of an unfounded phantom fear of the wholly-invented notion of widespread improper voting.  Padilla is a champion of democracy just when we need one more such defender in the Senate.

“At the same time, today’s announcement is an acknowledgment of the importance of the California Latino community today and in the future.  Comprising 40 percent of the state population and over one-quarter of state voters, the California Latino community deserves representation in the U.S. Senate.  What a turnaround today marks for California from a mere quarter-century ago when Latinos were the target of irresponsible state leaders and punitive ballot measures like Propositions 187 and 209.

“Finally, we recognize that this appointment opens the statewide position of secretary of state.  That opening is another opportunity for Governor Newsom to demonstrate to all that California’s great strength is immeasurably enhanced by the diversity of its people.”