Political Notebook

Padilla takes time to meet with farmers, ag groups

Secretary of State Alex Padilla
Secretary of State Alex Padilla

Secretary of State Alex Padilla took office in January, and has busied himself with work associated with his new job.

He’s proposed an election reform bill designed to increase voter participation and reversed a department policy that prohibited felons who served time for nonviolent offenses from voting.

On Tuesday, he also made his second visit in the past month to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at the Fresno Convention Center — a place filled with potential new voters.

So much for rumblings that the ambitious Padilla sees his current job as a placeholder or stepping stone to a higher office such as governor or U.S. senator. Asked during a Fresno Bee Editorial Board meeting Tuesday about his future political plans, Padilla name checked his former boss, current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“You know what she tells me?” he said. “Do a good job where you are, and let the future take care of itself.”

Still, before the naturalization ceremony, Padilla took an hour to meet with central San Joaquin Valley farmers and agricultural groups, where the talk centered mostly on water and immigration reform — not usually front-and-center priorities for a secretary of state, but certainly ones for a governor or U.S. senator.

“It was a good meeting,” Nisei Farmers League President Manuel Cunha Jr. said.

Cunha said Padilla talked about issues in the context of the Secretary of State’s job, but also seemed to be looking at his political future as well. Of note, Cunha said, Padilla “spent a good portion of the time on water and the importance of dealing with water with today’s population vs. the 50s and 60s.”

Even better, Cunha said, was that Padilla’s comments focused heavily on increasing water storage.

“He was really talking about it,” Cunha said of Padilla. “He knew the importance of storage.”

Cunha has known Padilla a long time, since the days when he was a Feinstein staffer, and suspects he’ll run for higher office, possibly in 2018 — especially if Feinstein decides to retire.

If Padilla is going to run for the Senate, the key is Feinstein. If she does retire, Cunha suspects Padilla will return to places like Fresno, where he will solidify the relationships he is now building.

Said Cunha: “He’s setting the groundwork.”