Democrat Steve Padilla was named senator from California on Monday, joining a diverse legislative body with historic Latino and LGBTQ+ representation.
He was installed as the representative of the 18th district in a ceremony held at the Sacramento Capitol. He was joined by 18 other sworn-ins, including Katherine Blakespear, a former Encinitas mayor who now represents the 38th District.
Padilla, a former Chula Vista council member, will serve a four-year term representing the newly created district, which includes southern San Diego County and Imperial, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
His election adds to the diversity of the House of Representatives, which now has a record 39 Latino legislators after this year’s elections. Latinos, mostly Democrats, now make up more than 30 percent of the 120-member Legislature.
Caucus adviser Willie Guerrero said Padilla, 55, is one of the newest members of the 49-year-old California Latino Legislative Caucus, which has grown to a record 34 members (up from 30 previously).
The senators are also among the top 10 percent of seats elected by members of the LGBTQ+ community, the first time such LGBTQ+ representation has occurred in the US state house, said Senate President Pro Tem Tony Atkins.
“I am amazed at how much the Legislature has changed and grown to truly reflect the nearly 40 million people who call our state home. Between the two chambers, we are part of the most diverse California Legislature the state has ever seen,” Atkins said from the Senate floor. In 2018, she became the first woman to lead the Senate and the first openly gay lawmaker Created history.
Padilla, also a trailblazer, is Chula Vista’s first Latino mayor and the first openly gay person to hold the city’s podium.
Padilla, a lifelong Chula Vista resident, has worked as a police officer, detective and public affairs consultant. He is best known for his long tenure on the city council, which he joined in 1994. Padilla was mayor from 2002 to 2006. He returned as councilor in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020. and commissions, such as commissioner of the Port of San Diego and, more recently, as chairman of the state Coastal Commission.
Election results showed that Padilla had received 61.4 percent of the vote, while his Republican opponent, Alejandro Galicia, received 38.5 percent.
His position in Chula Vista District 3 is now vacant.
The city council would have to announce a vacancy and appoint someone to serve out the remaining two years of Padilla’s term or hold a special election. If there is a special election, it could be in April, May or November.
Last week, Padilla waved goodbye to the stage alongside her longtime friend and colleague Mary Casillas Salas, who delivered her final state of the city address as mayor.
“It was a blast from the past,” Padilla said of his final moments at City Hall. “I am proud of the work I have participated in. I have dedicated much of my adult life to serving the city and am excited about the next chapter.