Some have speculated that Newsom, also embattled and facing a potential recall effort over his mishandling of the coronavirus, hoped installing his longtime ally might prove mutually beneficial.
Despite having received criticism from black activists for failing to fill the seat with another person of African–American identity, it was a “proud day for California,” Newsom claimed.
“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation—we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State,” Newsom said in a press release.
James Schwab, who was chief deputy secretary of state, will serve as the acting secretary of state in California until the state legislature confirms Weber’s appointment, which will occur within 90 days.
Even before Padilla arrives, though, he already faces his first calls for an investigation over a contract that he approved during the November election.
He granted a $35-million no-bid contract to SKD Knickerbocker, a partisan Democratic consulting company and the “main election campaign advisory firm” for Joe Biden’s campaign.
Padilla acknowledged his role in California’s normalization of mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, voting without state-issued identification, and other election fraud tactics.
“I am proud of the transformative work we have accomplished in partnership with you, the Legislature, county election officials, voting rights advocates, and community leaders throughout the state to reduce barriers to participation in the electoral process, increase voter registration and participation, and administer safe and secure elections – even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Under Padilla’s leadership, his office granted money from the Help America Vote Act—which was included in the CARES Act package—to SKDK.
The SOS’s contract said SKDK should use the money to “micro-target” voters—that is, identify potential Democratic voters—and encourage mail-in voting.
Yet, the Help America Vote Act requires that the states use the money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.”
Even setting aside the contract’s open partisanship, HAVA specifically prohibits get-out-the-vote operations.
A few House Republicans explored different avenues to investigate the corruption before Padilla’s appointment, but the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and California officials ignored their pleas.
“The no-bid contract was awarded behind closed doors to a firm that employs the ‘mastermind’ of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and recently added a banner to its website with pictures of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris thanking them for ‘fighting for the soul of the nation,'” Republican Reps. James Comer of Kentucky, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jody Hice of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio wrote in a letter.
Padilla praised the state’s ability to harvest a record number of mail-in ballots.
“More than 22 million registered voters were able to vote in the 2020 Presidential General Election and a record 17.8 million Californians cast their ballot – demonstrating to the nation a proven model of electoral reform and innovation,” he wrote in a letter to Newsom.
“Dr. King teaches us that we are at our best when we stand up in service of others and I am humbled to be able to continue to stand up for Californians as Secretary of State,” Padilla said.