Will Kamala Harris’ Victory be an Opportunity for a Latino in the Senate?

Kamala Harris Latino Senator BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

To say that Kamala Harris has changed the history of the United States forever is an understatement. The California senator, and now vice president-elect, is the first woman and the first woman of color to reach the country’s second-highest leadership position.

But her election also presents a unique opportunity for California and the entire nation: it could open the door to the first Latino representing the state in the U.S. Senate.

According to the Washington Post, since California broke away from Mexico and joined the union more than a century and a half ago, the state has never had a Latino representing it in the U.S. Senate.

That record has put immense pressure on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom once the Biden-Harris campaign was victorious in the Nov. 3 election, and once Harris moves into the White House.

Almost immediately, two Latino politicians have emerged as leading candidates for the job: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D), who, for many, embody the state’s true diversity.

“The history would not be lost on Gavin, and appointing either would be good for the state and the country as a way to increase the representation of this growing political bloc,” said Karen Skelton, a Democratic political consultant in Sacramento who is not involved in the selection process. “And both are ready to hit the ground running.

According to the Post, whoever is selected to succeed Harris will have to defend the seat in just two years and position himself as one of the most influential politicians in the country.

In his regular Monday news conference, Newsom said last week the timing of his choice would be coordinated closely with Harris, who has yet to set her own schedule for when she will resign her seat.

“No timeline has been established, and the process is just beginning to unfold,” Newsom told reporters. “We just got word that the race was called by everyone but the current occupant of the White House.”

At a time when the progressive, Democratic wing of the country wants to build on the momentum of the presidential victory, the pressure on Newsom is no less imminent.

A coalition of Latino elected officials, community leaders, and organizations from across the state has led the campaign to convince the governor to consider a Latino.

According to Patch, Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman V. Manuel Perez, who is also vice-chairman of the California County Latino Caucus, has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. Nov. 20 to represent the coalition and to make his position clear.

“With Latinos now comprising nearly 40 percent of the state population and growing, Latino leaders say now is the time for Governor Newsom to act in appointing a Latino,” they said in a news release. “Dozens of Latino leaders will gather at press conferences in Sacramento, Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Jose, and they say there is no shortage of highly qualified candidates for Governor Newsom to choose from.”

According to the news release, the upcoming press conferences are being organized by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, Latino Caucus of California Counties, League of California Cities Latino Caucus, Chicano Latino Caucus of the California Democratic Party, California Latino School Boards Association, NALEO, United States, California LULAC, Latino Community Foundation, Mi Familia Vota, Communities for New California, SIREN, CHIRLA, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), United Latinos Sacramento, Central Valley Latino Roundtable, Latino Equity Council (San Diego), Latino Leadership Alliance, Central Valley LEAP Institute and Central Coast Citizenship Project VOTA, along with Latino elected officials and individual community leaders.