2022 U.S. Senate race in California cheat sheet: Challengers take on Alex Padilla

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla of California
Alex Padilla was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat formerly occupied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and is now running both to finish out her term and for a full six-year term that would start in January.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

After Alex Padilla was appointed to the seat vacated by Kamala Harris, 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 June ballot and then again in November.

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla is heavily favored in the Tuesday’s 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.

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.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.