Q&A: Sen. Alex Padilla By Tim Linden

Sen. Padilla was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1999, serving for seven years. He also served in the California State Senate and as California Secretary of State before being appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2021. He was on the November ballot to both complete the current term and serve a full term.

Give us a thumbnail sketch of your background? My parents arrived in California from different regions of Mexico in the 1960s with little formal education, but a tremendous work ethic and big dreams. They met in Los Angeles, fell in love, decided to get married and applied for green cards. I am forever grateful for their decision to pursue the American Dream. For 40 years, my father worked as a short-order cook. Hard work. Honest work. Union work. And as he’ll proudly tell you, his kitchen never failed an inspection. For those same 40 years, my mom worked tirelessly as a housekeeper. Together, they raised my sister, my brother and me in a modest three-bedroom house in the proud, working- class community of Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. It was there that my parents taught us about the values of service to others and of getting a good education. On weekends, we were often at park clean-ups and other neighborhood service projects. Today, my sister, my brother and I all work in public service. What event/accomplishment has been the highlight of your political career? Was there a seminal event that led you to a career in public service? When I was in school, I never thought I would run for elected office. After graduating from Los Angeles public schools, I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. As a student, I was working towards a career in the aerospace industry. At the same time a recession was hitting in the early 1990s, Prop 187 in California created an atmosphere of antagonism toward my community. I could not believe how immigrants—people like my parents who proudly worked hard in pursuit of the American Dream— were being demonized and scapegoated for the financial problems of our state government. I realized my community needed a stronger political voice. I became politically active, working on campaigns, serving as a field representative for my federal and state representatives, and ultimately running for office myself. At the age of 26, I was elected to represent the community I grew up in on the Los Angeles City Council. My story is not unique. The hateful rhetoric around Prop 187 encouraged many Latinos to become politically active. Is Congress as dysfunctional as it appears to the average citizen who holds the institution in such low regard today?

This Congress has proven it is still possible to get big things done and address major challenges facing our country, both when Republicans choose to work with Democrats as well as when they refuse. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will deliver long overdue, historic investments in rebuilding America’s infrastructure—including its water infrastructure— while creating millions of good-paying jobs. The law also includes the Power On Act , bipartisan legislation I introduced with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to invest $5 billion in electric grid resiliency. Once-in-a-generation weather events are now becoming a regular occurrence in California, Texas and across the nation. We need to harden the nation’s electrical grid to prevent shutoffs and better withstand extreme weather events and natural disasters, like wildfires, extreme heat and freezing, and droughts. The FIRE Act —my bill to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) wildfire preparedness and response efforts—passed unanimously out of the Senate. Protecting our communities from the destruction of wildfires can and should be a bipartisan priority, so I was proud to see the success of this legislation.

Sen. Padilla during his Little League days



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