Calls for Newsom to appoint Latino or Latina to U.S. Senate

The calls from elected leaders are growing louder for Governor Newsom to appoint a Latina or Latino to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat left by Kamala Harris.

California has never had Latino representation in the U.S. Senate in its 170 year history.

“It escapes why there has not been representation in a state where Latinos make up our economy, our culture,” Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation, said. “California is Latino. Latinos are California. The fact that we haven't had representation is really a smear on our history.”

Martinez Garcel spoke at a rally in Sacramento on Monday where roughly 20 organizations have joined forces to push Newsom to pick a Latino. The groups are not endorsing any candidate, but said there is no lack of qualified candidates.

Back in August, more than 500 Latino leaders across the state sent a letter to Newsom in anticipation of Harris’ seat being vacant. The letter stated a Latino candidate is long overdue, with Latinos making up nearly 40% of California’s population and contributing billions to the economy.

“Now that COVID has hit our communities direly, harmfully, and has hit us the most, we need somone who will represent us and fight for us for our communities,” she said.

Newsom’s short of list of candidates includes Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra. There are also a number of other candidates of color and women under consideration, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee from Oakland, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

David McCuan, Political Science Chair and Professor at Sonoma State University, said having a Latina or Latino fill the seat would be a big deal.

“Democrats only did OK on the election on November 3rd,  especially against LatinX communities nationwide,” McCuan said. “If you’re the governor and you’re looking to make history, and at the same time, looking to turn the page on Democrats, that is having Democrats move forward in a stronger way with the LatinX community, this is a golden moment to do that.”

McCuan said Newsom could also consider Toni Atkins, Democratic Pro Tem of the California Senate who represents the LGBTQ community. Regardless, McCuan said demographics are the future wave of American politics writ large, which is why Newsom is likely looking ahead to 2024 and 2028.

“Whoever the governor picks, that person has to stand on their own two feet and run for re-election in 2022 so they have to be able to raise money and have an organization to do that,” he said.

Martinez Garcel said we shouldn’t have to wait longer for a Latino senator from California to become a reality.

“We are now in a moment of writing history, the good kind or the bad kind,” she said. “Governor Newsom has the opportunity to write the right kind and appoint a Latina/Latino to the U.S. Senate.”

The rallies will continue across the state ending on Monday, Nov. 23 at Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Newsom has not given a timeline on when he’ll announce his pick.