2022 U.S. Senate primary race in California guide: Alex Padilla battles challengers

Alex Padilla
Incumbent Alex Padilla, a Democrat, made history as California’s first Latino U.S. senator when he was appointed to the position after Kamala Harris left to serve as U.S. vice president.
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla is heavily favored in the June election. But the veteran Democrat is facing a highly unusual election cycle.

Here is a rundown:

Atypical election cycle

Padilla, who is seeking a full six-year Senate term in 2022, will now have to run in concurrent elections to continue serving the remainder of Kamala Harris’ stint. Voters will see two races — a special Senate election covering the Harris term that ends this year and the regularly scheduled one for a six-year term that begins in January — next to each other on the ballot in June and then again in November.

Padilla was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom after Harris left her Senate post to serve as U.S. vice president.


Prior to Harris’ resignation and Padilla’s appointment, a Senate vacancy in the middle of an elected term had not occurred in California since 1991, when newly elected Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Republican John Seymour to fill the remaining two years of Wilson’s Senate term. Seymour lost his bid to remain in office in 1992 to Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

New legislation will have the most immediate impact on Sen. Alex Padilla, appointed by Newsom after Vice President Kamala Harris left her Senate post.

Sept. 27, 2021

The race

There are more than 20 people running for Senate, but Padilla and one Republican opponent have emerged from the pack.

Padilla is a longtime Los Angeles politician who made history when he became California’s first Latino U.S. senator. His closest Republican opponent is constitutional attorney Mark P. Meuser.

According to a new L.A. Times poll, 44% of likely voters support Padilla, with Meuser a distant second with 14% support.

Meuser has been a critic of some of California’s coronavirus health restrictions, even filing lawsuits against Newsom. He has also slammed Padilla and Democrats for inflation and the state of the economy. Padilla was a backer of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan and the Democrats’ infrastructure spending plan as well as climate and immigration legislation.

Also on the ballot is Dan O’Dowd, a billionaire software executive, whose campaign has focused on technology safety and what he sees as the dangers of self-driving cars.


Reading list

A socialist, a billionaire, a podiatrist: Alex Padilla’s Senate challengers in California
(Sacramento Bee)

U.S. Senate candidates debate issues
(NBC San Diego)

Meet the candidates for U.S. Senate
(23 ABC News)

Statements from the U.S. Senate candidates
(California Secretary of State)

Why is this U.S. Senate election cycle so strange?
(Sacramento Bee)

Talking to the U.S. Senate candidates
(CBS News)

Alex Padilla facing first election after appointment
(Sam Francisco Chronicle)

Profile: Alex Padilla
(Los Angeles Times)

Interview with Mark Meuser

Will Republicans ever win statewide office again in California?

Meet the Reclusive Software Billionaire Attacking Elon Musk
(New York Times)