Commentary: Reactions to Newsom’s Appointments – ‘Yay’ and ‘Meh’

Shirley Weber in a photo taken during a meeting in San Diego, March 2020

By David M. Greenwald

It was a busy day for Governor Gavin Newsom as he filled the Senate seat vacated by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris with Secretary of State Alex Padilla, becoming the first Latino US Senator to represent California.  And that created a new vacancy at Secretary of State, which he filled with four-term Assemblymember Shirley Weber.

A former Los Angeles City Councilman and State Senator, Padilla has been elected twice statewide as California Secretary of State, becoming the first Latino to hold the office.  Weber becomes the first Black to hold statewide office in California.

“The son of Mexican immigrants —  a cook and house cleaner — Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Senate, and has become a national defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State. Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office,” said Governor Newsom.

He said, “Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic. He will be a Senator for all Californians.”

But some were disappointed, wanting to see a more progressive choice like Barbara Lee or Karen Bass—both Black women.

Padilla does not have a great track record on issues like criminal justice reform.

Kate Chatfield, the policy director for the criminal justice advocacy group the Justice Collaborative, for example, told the San Francisco Chronicle that choosing Padilla was a “wasted opportunity.”

Like others, “She had hoped Newsom would appoint Reps. Karen Bass of Los Angeles or Barbara Lee of Oakland. Both, she said, have been far more outspoken advocates for the most vulnerable Californians, such as people in prison and those who are homeless.”

Chatfield criticized Padilla, calling his biggest criminal justice bill in the Legislature a bill “to crack down on cell phones in prisons, and he voted against a measure to reduce the penalties for certain drug crimes, something voters did two years later.

“I don’t see that he’s super bold and, as our governor likes to say, meeting any moment, let alone this moment,” Chatfield said. “I have not heard a compelling argument that he’s going to fight for the vulnerable in California.”

Later on Twitter she added that she hoped he would prove her wrong.

By contrast, the pick of Assemblymember Shirley Weber excited the same people unenthusiastic about the Padilla selection.

Dr. Weber, who chaired the 2020 California Electoral College proceedings, has represented San Diego in the State Assembly since 2012 and was previously President of the San Diego Board of Education and a professor for 40 years.

Her bill, AB 392, was seminal legislation setting new and higher standards for the use of deadly force by the police and she has been an overall champion for civil rights and police reform.

She also passed first-in-the-nation legislation to provide transparency and accountability around the harmful and unjust practice of racial and identity profiling, while improving public safety and police-community relations.

“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity,” said Governor Newsom. “The daughter of sharecroppers from Arkansas, Dr. Weber’s father didn’t get to vote until his 30s and her grandfather never got to vote because he died before the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.

“When her family moved to South Central Los Angeles, she saw as a child her parents rearrange furniture in their living room to serve as a local polling site for multiple elections. Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next Secretary of State – defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African American to be California’s Chief Elections Officer.”

She said, “I am excited to be nominated for this historical appointment as the Secretary of State of California. I thank Governor Newsom for the confidence and believing that I will stand strong for California. Becoming the first African American Woman in this position will be monumental, and I am up for the challenge. Being at the center of voting rights and laws that govern this state is a motivating factor in the work I will continue to do.”

San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin tweeted, “Great choice @GavinNewsom! Excited for  @AsmShirleyWeber to continue her leadership at a statewide level!”

The LA Times probably correctly noted: “The speedy decision by Newsom to announce the appointment on the same day he chose Padilla to fill the Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris may reflect the intense pressure the governor faced by passing over several Black women for the job of representing California in the upper house of Congress.”

One thing you can say about both selections—they have remarkable stories.

As Governor Newsom’s press release explains, Weber was born on a 100-acre farm in rural Hope, Arkansas, where her father, David, was a sharecropper. Though he had a sixth-grade education and, according to Weber, could barely read, he instilled in Weber and her siblings a belief in the power of education.

The family fled the farm and moved across the country when Weber was just three because her father refused to back down in a dispute with a white farmer, and a lynch mob threatened his life.

Soon after the family moved to the Pueblo Del Rio housing projects in South Los Angeles in 1951, where Weber began school. She is a proud product of California public schools—district schools in Los Angeles through high school, and later at UCLA, where she earned three degrees, including her Ph.D., at only 26 years old.

As one of the few Black women in Southern California navigating academia in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dr. Weber ascended to become one of the youngest-ever professors at San Diego State University, where she helped found the Africana Studies Department.

Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Dr. Weber served as the mayor’s appointee and Chair on the Citizens Equal Opportunity Commission. She has also served on the Board of the NAACP, YWCA, YMCA Scholarship Committee, Battered Women Services, United Way, San Diego Consortium and Private Industry Council and others. She served as a member of the San Diego Board of Education from 1988 to 1996, including a stint as president.

Interestingly enough, Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, in 1946.  Weber in 1948.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olsen

    “But some were disappointed, wanting to see a more progressive choice like Barbara Lee or Karen Bass—both Black women.”
    “first Latino US Senator to represent California”

    Word on the street is Californian American Indians are saying “Meh” to these picks.

    My comment here makes a point, though sarcastic.  There was much infighting between the Latinx community and the black community over who the Governor should appoint to these positions.  It was mostly about identity politics, not so much about selecting the best candidates regardless of race.

      1. Keith Olsen

        LOL, it strikes me as funny that you of all people actually saying “You keep trying to make this about race”.

        But in actuality, these picks were probably as much about race as they were about policy.  Do you disagree?

        1. David Greenwald

          Yes I agree. But my commentary was about policy not race. I would have been fine with a stronger Latino selection for Senator but Bass and Lee were clear top choices regardless of race.

        2. Richard McCann


          Padilla will still be on the left side of the U.S. Senate. He may seem to be a moderate here, but he’s not in the large national scene. The question is not about who has the “right” political views but rather who will be more effective in the Senate. Bass might be able to make that case, but Lee certainly cannot based on her track record in the House.

  2. Tia Will

    “I don’t see that he’s super bold and, as our governor likes to say, meeting any moment, let alone this moment,” Chatfield said. “I have not heard a compelling argument that he’s going to fight for the vulnerable in California.”

    I remember much the same type of comments being made about now VP-elect Harris when she was running for Senate. There she has proven through her votes to be a stauncher advocate for social justice issues than many thought would be the case. I would recommend a wait and see attitude rather than nitpicking Padilla’s record. Let’s give this guy a chance.

        1. David Greenwald

          Remember these are people who are basically being gifted a position, Padilla if he plays his cards right, he is my age right now, so he could hold the Senate seat for decades, seems to be that a little scrutiny on their voting record is in order.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Thinking he’ll have 2 years to prove himself… as will she… as I recall, both the Senate seat and CA Secretary of State gig comes up for voter approval then… as well as the Governor’s continuance in office… the latter better hope than a strong moderate, from either party, or NPP/Ind doesn’t emerge…

  3. Ron Glick

    Of course race is a big component.

    Black Asian Senator replaced by Latino Secretary of State.

    Latino Secretary of State replaced by Black member of Legislature.

    Now he should replace Latino Attorney General with Asian. That puts Ted Lieu in the running.

    One thing that isn’t mentioned about Padilla is that he is a proven candidate having won statewide office. Gavin was smart to pick someone who had already won a statewide election since that person must run statewide in 2022.

    You can nit pick all you want but these are excellent competent experienced picks by the Governor.


    1. Keith Olsen

      Now he should replace Latino Attorney General with Asian.

      I’m sitting here laughing at my computer.  This is so hilarious.

      Like I wrote earlier, where’s the American Indian placement?

      1. Tia Will


        I’m not sure what you find funny about the representation of historically and currently underrepresented groups in leadership positions. Can you explain?

        1. Keith Olsen

          I think I already have.  I don’t think we should be picking replacements based almost entirely on race.  Can you imagine the uproar if the selection process to replace a white Senator had to be a white person?  Would you be okay with that?

          1. David Greenwald

            I think you’re now going far. He was looking for a Latino to name to the Senate. But he didn’t pull a random person off the street either. So to say that it was based on entirely on race (almost) is false and insulting. I say that as someone who wasn’t particularly fond of the pick.

        2. Keith Olsen

          So to say that it was based on entirely on race (almost) is false and insulting. 

          It had to be someone who was either Latinx or black.  Are you actually going to disagree with that?

          1. David Greenwald

            Keith – you’re pissing me off because I already acknowledged that he was looking for a Latino for the Senate seat. I am disagreeing with you that the choice of Padilla was based almost entirely on race.

            Let’s limit to Constitutional Officers:

            Eleni Kounalakis
            Alex Padilla
            Xavier Becerra
            Betty Yee
            Fiona Ma
            Ricardo Lara
            Tony Thumond

            Becerra was already appointed by Biden, of the others, I would argue Padilla by far is the best candidate issue positions notwithstanding.

            My preferences were based on issues, not experience.

            I get that you don’t like the idea of someone looking for a qualified person of a particular race or ethnicity, but let’s not pretend that this was an undeserving pick.

            In fact, now that I go through the list here, I probably come down on the side of there was a good chance he would have been selected even if he didn’t have a Latino in mind.

        3. Richard McCann

          Keith O

          Understand that the measure of “merit” has been historically highly biased and we still live the legacy of a certain class (i.e., white males) being given a large “plus factor” in the conventional measure of merit. These selection processes are now overcoming the misaimed merit rankings to focus on other better measures of merit such as connecting with the larger population.

          1. David Greenwald

            One of the things that was pretty clear once you map out the list of potential candidates, Padilla rated near the top of that list – Latino or not. I doubt Keith could name a lot of Democrats who would be higher rated.

        4. Keith Olsen

          One of the things that was pretty clear once you map out the list of potential candidates, Padilla rated near the top of that list – Latino or not. 

          Let’s be honest here, him being rated near the top wouldn’t have got him the position unless he was Latino.  Right?


          1. David Greenwald

            Look at the potential list I posted earlier – tell me who would rate above him among the constitutional officers, keeping in mind that Becerra was already appointed to HHS

          2. David Greenwald

            For example, here is the list of constitutional list, I don’t see another clear choice with Becerra off the table.

            Constitutional Officers:

            Eleni Kounalakis
            Alex Padilla
            Xavier Becerra
            Betty Yee
            Fiona Ma
            Ricardo Lara
            Tony Thumond

          1. David Greenwald

            Looking at the possible list, I disagree. I think while Latino was a clear consideration, he’s near the top of the short list regardless. Come up with a top 5 list without Padilla in it and we can discuss.

      2. Bill Marshall

        Like I wrote earlier, where’s the American Indian placement?

        Waiting to have enough voters to sway the Governor by a fear of losing his “base”… BTW, a reasonable chance that Padilla has bloodlines from indigenous folk from the Americas…

  4. Ron Glick

    “Bass and Lee were clear top choices regardless of race.”

    Maybe but there are two problems with picking them. First neither has won a statewide election.

    Second, the Governor’s Aunt Nancy needs every vote because of her much smaller majority. This makes it hard to poach House members for other roles. Even if they are from a safe district the seat would be vacant until a special election can be held. If Newsom is thinking about Ted Lieu for AG it makes it even harder to hollow out Pelosi’s majority.

    1. Matt Williams

      As is often the case Ron G. hits the nail on the head.  Padilla’s track record of statewide electability also means he is less likely to be seen by his fellow senators as a lame duck.

      I personally prefer having a moderate Senator and a progressive Secretary of State to a progressive Senator and a moderate Secretary of State.  “Weakness” on the progressiveness scale is less of a problem/issue with a Senator … where collaboration is an important characteristic … than with a Secretary of State … where more definitive/decisive leadership is called for.  Shirley Weber appears to be likely to be more definitive and decisive than Padilla was.  I see that as a positive.

  5. Ron Glick

    “Like I wrote earlier, where’s the American Indian placement?”

    Biden picked a Native American to run the Interior Department. The first Native American to run Interior in our country’s history. That was a big deal. Laugh all you want.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Quota, based upon skin color.

    Never thought I’d see the day when the majority (even on here) think this is o.k. Though apparently, the majority of voters aren’t o.k. with this, in regard to the rejection of affirmative action.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I did – right there at 9:30 a.m.  😉

        If it’s an expectation (that would otherwise cause a political uproar), it is in effect a quota.  A quota of 100% of the available positions, in this case.

      2. Bill Marshall

        Who said “Quota?”

        Explicitly, Ron O… implicitly, Newsom, David, and the folk he cites… the q-word is kinda like the n-word… no one (almost) dares speak it… too “charged”… A-Action comes close… current ‘acceptable terms’ include ‘inclusivity’, ‘diversity’, and/or ‘social justice’…

    1. Eric Gelber

      “Quota” is the term used derogatorily by those who oppose consideration of diversity in the selection of individuals for leadership positions in the most diverse state in the nation. We’ll see if the majority of voters aren’t o.k. with this in two years.

      1. Ron Oertel

        If it continues to be a strong-armed “expectation”, it may not need to be codified.

        Newsom knew what he “had” to do, as it was made pretty-clear by others. (Though I suspect it was an “internal” requirement for him, as well.)

        By the way, wasn’t there also some kind of actual requirement (quota) for boards of corporations enacted recently?  (I could look it up, but thought you might know.)

        Quota is not a derogatory term – it’s a factual one.

        1. David Greenwald

          It’s not a factual one – it’s subjective, at least in this case. It’s hard to have a quota if you have an N of 2, unless you are arguing that you always have to set aside a seat for a particular demographic characteristic. In this case, it was more along the lines of – we haven’t had a Latino, I should appoint one. That doesn’t describe a quota as the term is generally understood.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Ok, David… a Black/Asian woman was replaced by a ‘latinx’ man… the ‘latinx’ guy was replaced by a Black woman… zero sum game… and yes, I think it was a ‘game’… also, in effect, a ‘pardon’ for Padilla with his multi-million $$$ snafu… made him ‘immune’… also, who could blame the new Secretary of State?

          Newsom will likely claim “plausible deniability” for himself… perfectly Machiavellian… may Newsom’s term be as short as ‘the one who cannot be named’ on this site… Newsom could either pardon himself, or resign a bit early, and have the Lt Governor do it… much like ‘the other’…

      2. Bill Marshall

        If competent, and a lot of folk out there who are, I would not shed a tear if all electeds were women and/or POC… unless that is the only/main reason, the only criteria for office… and as long as they don’t blame me for all the problems in the world, as some do… I exert my ‘privelege’ in expecting that…

    2. Tia Will

      Do you believe either of these people lack the qualifications for the position they are being named to? If that were the case, and they were selected only on the basis of race, I would find that both a quota and objectionable. I do not believe that is the case for either one.

  7. Tia Will

    Can you imagine the uproar if the selection process to replace a white Senator had to be a white person?  Would you be okay with that?”

    I would be if white individuals had been systemically forbidden positions of power for centuries. But that is not the case, is it?


    1. Ron Oertel

      I would be if white individuals had been systemically forbidden positions of power for centuries. But that is not the case, is it?

      They certainly are from this point forward (e.g., for these two positions).  Asians too, apparently.

      And actually, the U.S. hasn’t been around for “centuries”. So, what countries are you referring to? Spain? China?

      1. Eric Gelber

        What prohibition are you referring to that systematically excludes white individuals from positions of power? Are you seriously suggesting that diversity efforts impact white males comparably to the historical treatment of Blacks? Until the mid-19th century, they had no rights as citizens; they were literally considered to be property. Even as citizens Blacks and other racial minority groups were denied the rights of citizens until enactments such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Please give some more thought to what you’re saying before tapping on Post Comment.

        (By the way, 1776–>2020 = 2.44 centuries.)


        1. Ron Oertel

          What prohibition are you referring to that systematically excludes white individuals from positions of power?

          Seems rather strange to be asking that question, given the example at hand.  Affirmative action would be in that category, as well.  But it’s not just “whites” – it’s generally Asians, as well.  (Sort of an “inconvenient truth” for affirmative action fans. And one which admittedly causes me some amusement.)

          Please give some more thought to what you’re saying before tapping on Post Comment.

          Uhm – right back at ya.  😉

          (By the way, 1776–>2020 = 2.44 centuries.)

          I’m aware of that.  The point was (when referring to “centuries” – as cited by Tia) is that there are, and have been countries around for a lot longer periods, which did not enact quotas for the sake of diversity (despite some rather “questionable” history).  And which aren’t dominated by “white” people.

          Pretty sure that you know all of this already, so maybe the second quote above applies more to you, than me.

        2. Ron Oertel

          That seems like a different question, but it wouldn’t be one that enacts government quotas based upon skin color. That seems like the “opposite” of democracy.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I do have one suggestion though:

          Let’s say that there’s a highly-educated city chock-full of older white people.  What I’d suggest is limiting future residents of a proposed development to largely those same types. No, not on “purpose”, of course. Heavens, no – as that would certainly be wrong. 😉

          Too bad that there’s no local examples of that, supported by leaders and other self-proclaimed socially-conscious types.

    2. Ron Oertel

      Maybe we can also go over the history of Mexico, too?  And the displacement (to put it nicely) of native people in that area?

      I wonder if other countries have quotas to make-up for past transgressions. Probably no shortage of that (and certainly not limited to “white” people).

  8. Ron Glick

    I disagree Hobbs, let them go on. These guys want to keep fighting a diversity battle that was lost in the 1990’s. They are creating a new permanent minority in California, its called the GOP. No quotas in electoral politics so please keep talking guys.


  9. Ron Oertel

    Given his skin color, I wonder why Newsom felt “entitled” to run for office. Shouldn’t he have stepped-aside, and encouraged someone of a better color (and perhaps gender) to run for such a high office?

    Or, is it o.k. when you then attempt to make up for past transgressions (by those sharing the same skin color), as Newsom and Biden have done? (Seems that you get a “pass”, in that case.) But, he better damn-well apologize for his own skin color, I would think. 😉

      1. Ron Oertel

        The odd thing is that we wouldn’t have even been talking about those selected, if they were made without the prerequisite.  Wouldn’t have even thought much about them, most likely.

        1. Ron Oertel

          My point, exactly.  I don’t know much about any of these folks, what their positions are (or the universe of those who might be considered).

          The only thing I was aware of is the skin color prerequisite, since that was already established.


          1. David Greenwald

            Neither of you seem able to have this debate. My contention is not that he wasn’t under pressure to selected a Latino, it’s that even if he wasn’t Padilla was an obvious and logical choice.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I’m not sure that there’s a debate to be had, regarding what you want to talk about. Regardless, I’ve already noted my unfamiliarity with the positions of those selected (or the universe of possible selectees).

          Similar to how I want to talk about crime rates (and the impact that has), while you want to talk about police bias (and the impact that has). Both are ultimately related.

          Two different topics and languages. The topics I want to talk about are more fundamental (and have a more significant / widespread impact), in my opinion.

  10. Bill Marshall

    The topics I want to talk about are more fundamental (and have a more significant / widespread impact), in my opinion.

    Fine… submit an article… 95% sure David will make sure it’s posted… along the lines of “put up…”

    1. Ron Oertel

      These selections had a prerequisite, based upon skin color.  Skin color is proudly mentioned in the article, itself. Others throughout the comment section also discussed it (and challenged me directly, in the process).

      If you think it’s off-topic, complain about it to the moderator.  As you said to me, put up, or . . .

      Ironically, I don’t get the feeling that you’re a fan of quotas.  Maybe you’re just not a fan of my comments, even if you agree.

      But yeah – by all means, go for it – if you want to engage in the specifics that David brought up. Nothing stopping you.

      Bottom line is that I see no reason for you to even challenge me in this manner in the first place (as is often the case).

      1. Eric Gelber

        Your continual reference to “skin color” trivializes and misrepresents the issue. This is not about the superficial trait of skin color. It’s about a seat at the table, and representation at the highest level of government, of groups that have been and continue to be the subject of de discrimination and exclusion from positions responsible for policy development and implementation that impact their fundamental rights and quality of life.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Despite all the fancy words and lofty goals, skin color is being used as an initial prerequisite/quota.

          Sorry, I just don’t support that approach.  Apparently, a majority of California voters don’t, either.  Though they seem to elect politicians who do.

          I see some disconnect between the politicians that can rise up within the system, vs. what voters support in other ways as well.

          Personally, I think the use of quotas is a basic civil rights issue.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Some us are close to completely ignoring skin color… and have been for 50+ years… but we are told that isn’t ‘real’… we’re just in “denial”… it’s ‘racist’, yet the accusations come from our same race/skin color… go figure…

        3. Ron Oertel

          yet the accusations come from our same race/skin color… go figure…

          You have to be “enlightened” to understand it. It comes from the same folks who say that only white people can be racist, for example. And that white people are the only ones with “power and privilege” to do so. Of course, Asians are usually left out of the equation, entirely.

          Though I don’t believe that anyone is truly color-blind, on a subconscious level at least.

          1. David Greenwald

            If you look at the list of constitution officers:

            1 – Greek
            3 – Latino
            2 – Asian
            1 – Black

        4. Ron Oertel

          I believe that one reason that Asians are left out of the equation is due to the very reason that Bill quoted:

          yet the accusations come from our same race/skin color… go figure…

          Those folks certainly would not make the same type of comments/implication outside of their own skin color.

          The arguments ring hollow, due to discrepancies like that.

          The unfortunate part is that most people probably have the same basic beliefs/ideals, which gets lost in the nonsense. But, I doubt that quotas are ever going to be popular (except among a significant portion of “enlightened” people), and can create other problems.

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