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Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA honors California secretary of state

August 05, 2020
Alex Padilla
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. (Credit: California Secretary of State office)

Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA honors California secretary of state

August 05, 2020
Alex Padilla
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. (Credit: California Secretary of State office)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was honored Tuesday for his years of distinguished public service by the Pat Brown Institute (PBI) for Public Affairs at Cal State LA.

Padilla received the 2020 Pat Brown Legacy Award on Aug. 4 at a webinar during which he discussed his career and his vision for the democratic process as part of a conversation with PBI Executive Director Raphael J. Sonenshein.

Jose A. Gomez, Cal State LA executive vice president and chair of the PBI board, presented the award to Padilla. He recalled meeting Padilla in 1998 when they had offices next to each other while working on the coordinated campaign for the California Democratic Party. Padilla is a kind, energetic and smart leader, Gomez said.

“Alex is a role model for Cal State LA students and all Californians,” Gomez said. “There is probably no better example of the power of opportunity than our honoree today.”

“It is an honor to virtually receive this award,” Padilla said. “It means a lot to me. This is a big deal. I enjoy public service tremendously and have been at it for a few years. This is affirmation that we are doing some good things along the way to help people. That is what it is all about.”

Padilla, who became secretary of state in January 2015 and is in his second term, has been committed to increasing voter registration and participation and strengthening voting rights. The son of Mexican immigrants, he was raised in Pacoima in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

Cal State LA President William A. Covino welcomed guests to the webinar.

“Whether face to face or in a virtual space, the work of PBI furthers Cal State LA’s commitment to engagement, service and the public good,” Covino said. “Cal State LA has a deep and transformative impact on our region. We need PBI’s voice and presence, and critical conversations such as this one. We need them now more than ever.”

Sonenshein said that Padilla is at the center of two of California’s most crucial efforts to preserve and expand our democracy: the 2020 Census and the November election.

“In both cases, he is finding innovative ways to address the impact of the pandemic that is hitting vulnerable communities the hardest—the very communities that will most benefit from a complete census count, and for whom a more complete democracy is a vital resource,” Sonenshein said. “He has become a national leader on these issues, and is a respected partner with other secretaries of state around the nation.”

During his conversation with Sonenshein, Padilla spoke about growing up in Pacoima and being raised in a home where his parents stressed the value of education and hard work. After graduating from San Fernando High School, he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At 26, he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council, after spending months knocking on doors to introduce himself to voters in the 7th Council District.

As secretary of state, Padilla is overseeing his agency’s initiative to ensure an accurate count for the 2020 Census. So far, 65% of state households have filled out the census, but Padilla acknowledged that more work needs to be done.

“We are about a percentage point ahead of the national average,” he said. “That’s not bad news. That’s good news. But we are still a far cry from where we were 10 years ago, and 65% of households may count but that means 35% have not.”

With the November presidential election approaching, Padilla said Californians should have confidence in the vote-by-mail process due to its transparency and accountability.

“Yes, it’s convenient, but it’s also secure,” said Padilla, noting that a number of security measures have been implemented to prevent against fraud, including signature verification.

He said that voters can sign up for a ballot tracking system called “Where’s My Ballot?” on the Secretary of State website. This system will allow voters to receive emails, text message alerts or automated phone calls about the status of their ballots.

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit