With speculation swirling that California Secretary of State Alex Padilla could be selected to fill Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat once she becomes vice president next month, some local politicians are lining up to potentially replace him.
Five California legislators have opened exploratory committees looking into a run for secretary of state, including two South Bay leaders: Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), whose district covers parts of North San Jose and all of Santa Clara.
The exploratory committees are operating under the assumption Padilla will complete his term ending in 2023. But with another frontrunner for Harris’s seat, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, being tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Padilla’s chances at landing the highly coveted Senate post have grown considerably.
That means Padilla’s current position could be vacant as early as next month.
Low, 37, has served in the 28th Assembly District since 2014. A former Campbell councilman, Low was appointed mayor in 2010, becoming the youngest openly gay Asian American mayor in the country. Low is known for his “unusual ambition,” and has consistently been named one of the Assembly’s most active lawmakers.
In January, he was named national co-chair of Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign.
Low has been one of the legislature’s most progressive voices, pushing for LGBTQ rights — including a ban on conversion therapy and one that banned state-funded travel to states that have enacted laws discriminating against individuals’ sexual orientation or gender identity. He’s also advocated for decriminalization of psychedelic drugs, more cannabis businesses in the state and a push to make Election Day a state holiday.
He was the co-author of the argument in favor of California’s Proposition 18, which would have given 17-year-olds the right to vote in primary elections if they turn 18 by the general election. Prop. 18 was narrowly defeated last month.
Low could not immediately be reached for comment.
Low is also the co-founder of the California Legislative Tech Caucus, which looks to boost California’s tech industry through policy involving technology and innovation, including jobs and legislation. Like Yang, Low has pushed for a statewide basic income, which would give many Californians $1,000 a month to “rewrite the rules of the economy.”
Further north, Sen. Bob Wieckowski is weighing his options, as he will be termed out of the Legislature in 2022.
Wieckowski, 65, has served in the state Senate since 2014. A bankruptcy attorney by trade, he served in the Assembly from 2010 to 2014 representing the 25th District, which covers North San Jose. He’s previously pulled papers to run for 2020 presidential hopeful Rep. Eric Swalwell’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and an open Alameda County Board of Supervisors seat.
Wieckowski lost his supervisorial race in March.
Like Low, Wieckowski has been particularly active in the state Capitol, proposing 24 bills in his first term in the Assembly, 21 of which were signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown. In the Senate, Wieckowski launched the Made in California Jobs Initiative to expand California manufacturing, which invests in biotechnology research and provides aid for small businesses.
Wieckowski, who did not return calls for comment, has advocated for affordable housing and is a backer of the Green New Deal.
In 2019, he introduced Senate Bill 13, which reduced fees, parking requirements and other compliance standards to make building “accessory dwelling units” — or ADUs — easier. He formerly chaired the Senate’s environmental subcommittee, where he advocated for climate change bills and flood control. Other notable actions include authoring a bill strengthening consumer protections, reforming debt collection and lowering the cap for wage garnishments.
Three other politicos have opened exploratory committees to replace Padilla: State Senate Minority Leader Pat Bates, a Republican representing Orange County; Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego; and Democrat Holly Mitchell, who was sworn in this week to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.