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People have been saying Alex Padilla is a politician to watch since he was in his early 20s.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineer gave up a career in aerospace to enter politics at an early age. At 26, he became Los Angeles’ youngest council member. Then, he went on to be the face of city government in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

That brought him national prominence. “This can only be helpful, if you want to be crude in the political sense, to whatever future plans he has,” one political consultant said of Padilla at the time.

Now, he is set to become California’s first Latino U.S. senator, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the term of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

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