Political Notebook

Padilla makes third Valley visit in as many months

He may not be in former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s league — yet — but California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, sure looks like he’s making the central San Joaquin Valley a home away from home.

Padilla, who took office in January, made his third area visit in as many months on Wednesday.

The visits continue to fuel speculation that Padilla is already campaigning for a higher office, such as U.S. Senate.

Padilla started off his day meeting with Parlier High School students to celebrate High School Voter Education Weeks. From there, he headed to Fresno State to talk to students about the future of voting in California. Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler moderated a question-and-answer session after the presentation.

In July and August, Padilla attended U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremonies at the Fresno Convention Center.

Before his naturalization ceremony visit last month, Padilla took an hour to meet with central San Joaquin Valley farmers and agricultural groups, where he talked about water and immigration reform.

The visits, all with mostly obvious ties to his job as secretary of state, could also do double duty for someone seeking a more prominent state post and wants to get known among new and young voters. Many think that Padilla is gearing up for a 2018 run, possibly for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who many expect to retire at the end of this term. As much as naturalization ceremonies and youth voter education jibe with the office, the visit with farmers and ranchers raised eyebrows.

For all that, Padilla still has a long way to go if he wants to catch Schwarzenegger, who visited the Valley more than 70 times during his gubernatorial tenure, coming to the area to tout proposed initiatives, sign legislation, cajole lawmakers and raise campaign cash.

But Padilla isn’t even nine months into his first term, so he’s off to a good start.