'We are long overdue' say Latino leaders seeking to sway governor's pick for US Senate

Latino leaders in California are uniting to request that Governor Gavin Newsom name a Latino to replace outgoing Senator Kamala Harris.
Latino leaders in California are uniting to request that Gov. Gavin Newsom name a Latino to replace outgoing Senator Kamala Harris.

"Latinos helped build this state. We grow its food. We serve in the national guard," said Assemblyman Robert Rivas, Vice-Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus at a Sacramento news conference of government and elected leaders.

California has had 44 senators in its 170-year history. All but three were white men. There has never been a Latino senator.

Latinos make up 40% of California's population, 54% of the students in K-12 schools and 25% of the state's business owners.

The leaders warned Newsom of their ability to rally voters to the polls.

"He will need our votes just as needed in 2018. Latinos against all odds showed up at the polls a this November and they will do it again," said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel of the California Latino community Foundation.

The governor has a long list of candidates from many backgrounds and there are many factors in play.

"The U.S. Senate could be a lifetime appointment. You can be there for decades as Dianne Feinstein has been and you actually get to vote on tremendous legislation, not only the Supreme Court nominees but whether we are going to war, budgets. It is a tremendous decision," says Professor Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University.

The list of potential candidates is a long one. Professor Guerra says that Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra have a solid record of electability. Whoever is appointed must run for office in 2022.

Nationally, African American women have been showing greater power to mobilize voters. But naming a woman to fill California's senate seat would not break any key barriers. Guerra says that voters have already sent three women to the Senate.

"In terms of a historic or gender inclusion, California is way past that," says Guerra.

The Latino speakers pointed to number of Latinos who are frontline workers and are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. They say that the solutions will come from the same community.

"We are long overdue to have that voice," said Garcel.
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