California Sen. Alex Padilla is campaigning hard — just not for himself. A staunch supporter of the state’s gun laws, Padilla’s campaign website says he’s for “public safety and making our state safer.”
His opponent, retired Air Force Col. Terry Madden, is for the opposite, defending “the right to bear arms” and a crackdown on gun violence.
Padilla’s opposition on the issue might be surprising, but he’s well-known in the state and well-liked on Capitol Hill: He was co-chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force that helped craft the nation’s first comprehensive gun legislation in 1995 and led the fight against a series of mass shootings from California to Colorado.
That legacy has kept Padilla a fixture of the gun debate, appearing at rallies, sitting in on committee hearings and hosting radio shows on his hobby and passion: guns.
But in recent months, Padilla has become more of an activist. He has become increasingly outspoken in the debates at the state and federal level over gun violence — and he’s getting his message heard.
Padilla’s rise is a rare exception in California politics: The state is the last in the nation where no one is running against a sitting incumbent, and Padilla is running as an independent.
“I’ve always been a registered Democrat,” he said. “I have a registered gun owner in my name. That’s what’s most important to me, that I’m not a slave to any political party.”
He is seeking the seat vacated by Democrat John Burton, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Burton’s resignation was part of a deal to end a corruption probe involving his aides.
Padilla, 44, is an accomplished, lifelong gun rights supporter