Calls to nominate a Black woman to replace Sen. Kamala Harris fell on deaf ears, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom picked Alex Padilla as the state’s next U.S. senator. Black elected officials Associated Press reported that Vice President-elect Harris is slated to step down in January ahead of the inauguration.

While news outlets have reported Padilla as a front runner, advocates had called on the governor to replace Harris with either Reps. Karen Bass or Barbara Lee, both Black women. Others wanted a general promise to appoint a woman of color. Harris was only the second Black woman elected to the senate. Carol Moseley Brown broke the initial barrier with her 1992 election. She represented Illinois for only one term. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed expressed her disappointment with the selection of Padilla. SFGATE reported Breed’s comments were made during a virtual press conference. 

An excerpt of Breed’s response as captured by SFGATE is included below. 

“The sad reality is [Harris] was the only African American woman in the Senate at this time, and when you think about the history of this country and the challenges that exist for African Americans especially … this is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general,” Breed said during the press conference. “I think it’s really challenging to put it in words.” 

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Padilla’s appointment makes him the first Latino to represent California in the senate. As a demographic, Latinos comprise 39% of California’s population.

“Whether you voted for Biden or Trump…whether you live in the North State or the Southland…whether you grew up speaking English, Spanish, Korean or Cantonese…we are all Californians,” Padilla said in a statement. “And I intend to be a Senator for all the people.

Newsom indicated he will appoint Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to replace Padilla as secretary of state. She will be the first Black person to serve as the state’s chief elections officer. Weber is also chair of the California legislative Black Caucus. Her nomination is pending legislative approval. 

Prior to serving as secretary of state, Padilla served as a state senator for the Los Angeles-area. To some, Padilla’s long history in California politics gives him a competitive advantage when time comes for him to run for election in 2022. Padilla received more votes in 2020 than Newsom himself.

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