The Issue Is: California Secretary of State Alex Padilla

Following the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, one of the biggest questions in California politics became who Governor Gavin Newsom would select to fill the Senate seat soon-to-be vacated by Vice President-Elect Harris.

This week, Newsom put the question to rest, selecting California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

On the heels of his selection, Padilla joined Elex Michaelson on The Issue Is to react to his appointment, discuss his quarter century in California politics, his family’s immigrant story, his policy priorities, resolutions for 2021, his favorite movie, and more.



BACKGROUND: This week, the announcement of Padilla’s appointment came via a recorded Zoom call between Padilla and Governor Gavin Newsom. While informing Padilla of his decision, Newsom invoked Padilla’s parents, asking his Secretary of State "can you imagine what Mom would be thinking now as I ask you if you want to be the next US Senator of the great state of California?" Michaelson asked Padilla to expand on his parent’s story, and how they helped to shape his worldview.

PADILLA’S CENTRAL TAKE: "It’s an amazing story. The more I think about it, the more I’m inspired by them… They’re both immigrants from Mexico, they came separately, my mom is from the state of Chihuahua, my dad is from the state of Jalisco …. They met in Los Angeles back in the late 60’s, fell in love, decided to get married, applied for Green Cards, in that order, and I thank the US government everyday for saying ‘yes,’ because if those applications had been denied, no doubt my life story would be a lot different… For 40 years, my dad worked as a short-order cook, my mom cleaned houses, and watching them struggle, sacrifice, and work hard to provide our generation with better opportunity, that’s as American dream as it gets, and to think that in just one generation, our family can claim a member now representing the most populous state in the nation in the United States Senate, I’m overcome with emotion just thinking about it."


BACKGROUND: In his capacity as California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla has spent the past five years "committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights." Now, as Padilla prepares for the move to Congress, Michaelson asked the Senator-Designate to lay out his policy priorities for the next two years.

PADILLA’S CENTRAL TAKE: "There’s a long list of what needs to be tackled, from expanding health care access to include everybody, to tackling climate change, a true existential threat, making our economy and our democracy much more inclusive than it’s been, but you can’t get to all of that effectively without dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. So, hot issue number one, priority number one, front-burner number one, two, and three, needs to be COVID, COVID, COVID…The end of the pandemic is nowhere in sight. Yes, there’s vaccines on the way, but it’s going to be months, and months, and months before a sufficient amount is manufactured, distributed, and effectively administered to get to the other side of the curve, as Dr. Fauci puts it. So, in the meantime, we’ve got to continue to help working families across the country, and all those small business owners, especially in a state like California, the most populous state in the nation, the most diverse state in the nation, we have the most at stake, we have the highest risk, and so I want to make sure I’m a fierce advocate for resources for California."


BACKGROUND: Prior to his appointment to the US Senate, Alex Padilla had a long journey through California politics. His public service dates back to the mid-90s, when he was an aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Since 1999, Padilla spent seven years on the LA City Council, five as Council President, eight years in the California State Senate, and the past five as California’s Secretary of State. Michaelson asked Padilla what lessons he’s learnt from those experiences that he’ll take with him to the Senate.

PADILLA'S CENTRAL TAKE: "There’s three that I’ll always take with me. Ultimately, public service is about ideas, what ideas you can have to make people’s lives better. Number two, relationships, can we build the relationships that either force public opinion, to line up the votes, you know, whatever support is necessary to advance those ideas. And, ultimately, to think big and be bold… progress at times is incremental, but we’ve got to think big if you want to make a big impact, and make big changes for the better, in any community, in the state, and in the country."


BACKGROUND: Looking to wrap the conversation with some levity, Michaelson and Padilla played a round of "The Name Game," providing the Golden State’s Secretary of State an opportunity to describe a number of prominent California politicians, as well as some of his future Senate colleagues, in a single word or phrase.


On Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA): "Bold"
On Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "Leader"
On Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris (D): "Trailblazer"
On Former Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA): "Sage"
On Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA): "Coalition-Builder"
On Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA): "Un-relentless"
On Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "Legislative-Graveyard"


The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to