The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is a 527 political action committee and the only organization dedicated to electing and protecting Democratic Secretaries of States.
California | Chair
California | Chair
Alex Padilla was sworn in as California Secretary of State on January 5, 2015. He is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights.
Padilla previously served in the California State Senate (2006-2014) where he chaired the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. As chair, he shepherded legislation to combat climate change and create a greener and more sustainable economy. He pursued an ambitious agenda in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid, and broadband deployment.
Padilla’s parents emigrated from Mexico and raised their family in the working class community of Pacoima, California. His father worked as a short order cook and his mother cleaned houses. Padilla attended local public schools and went on to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He recently completed a five-year term as a member of the MIT Corporation (Board of Trustees). Padilla is often asked how he moved from engineering to public service. He explains that in many ways they are similar; the goal of each is solving problems.
After working for Hughes Aircraft in Southern California, Padilla participated in the Coro Fellows Program where he received leadership and public affairs training. He would later work for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and then-Assemblymember Tony Cardenas.
In 1999, at the age of 26, Padilla was elected to the Los Angeles City Council to represent the same east San Fernando Valley community where he grew up. In 2001, his colleagues elected him to the first of three terms as Council President, becoming the youngest member and the first Latino to serve in this capacity.
As Council President, Padilla provided citywide leadership at critical times. He was Acting Mayor during the tragedy of September 11, 2001. He assisted in the interview and selection of William Bratton as Chief of Police and helped negotiate the approval of LA Live and the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport.
In 2005, Padilla was elected President of the League of California Cities. He advocated on behalf of California cities in the State Capitol and fought to protect their budgets and advance their legislative priorities.
In 2006, Padilla was elected to the California State Senate. He was reelected in 2010. Over the course of eight years, Padilla established a diverse and groundbreaking legislative record.
To address the growing rates of obesity and diabetes, Padilla authored the law that made California the first state in the nation to require chain restaurants to post calorie information directly on menus and menu boards. “Menu labeling” was later included in the Affordable Care Act and is now national policy.
Padilla also authored California’s first smoke free housing law and fought to increase enforcement and penalties for the illegal sale of tobacco to minors. He also established a sustainable funding source for pediatric trauma care throughout the state.
When he learned that thousands of cell phones were being smuggled into state prisons and used to direct criminal gang activity in our communities, Padilla led efforts to stop it. He wrote the law that criminalized the transfer, sale, or possession of illicit cell phones in prison. He also authored the law that prohibits violent felons from possessing, buying, or transferring body armor such as bulletproof vests.
There are approximately 1.5 million English Learners in California public schools. One in four k-12 students and about forty percent of all kindergarten students are English Learners. Sadly, only about eleven percent of English Learners achieve English proficiency and earn reclassification each year. Padilla authored a series of legislative measures to identify and implement best practices in English Learner curriculum and instruction statewide. He also advocated for funding reform and accountability for schools and school districts with high concentrations of English Learner students.
Through research and legislative hearings, Padilla exposed a bottleneck in the college transfer process. He wrote the law that streamlined the transfer process and created a clear and consistent pathway for community college students working to transfer to the California State University system. Padilla also authored the law that requires California’s elite university athletic programs to provide alternative scholarships to student-athletes who lose their athletic scholarships due to injury.
With the potential to create 20,000 jobs, Padilla authored key legislation to facilitate the construction of a new convention center and carbon-neutral sports stadium in downtown Los Angeles. With the goal of modernizing and better managing freight and passenger rail between San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Luis Obispo, he wrote the law to establish a joint powers authority to better govern the nation’s second busiest rail corridor.
As an engineer, Padilla is committed to the promise of science and advanced technology. To address concerns about the misuse of genetic information, Padilla authored the California Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act. To reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on our roads, he authored the law requiring safety and performance standards for autonomous (“driverless”) vehicles. And, working with seismologists at CalTech, U.C. Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey, Padilla authored a bill requiring the state to create a statewide Earthquake Early Warning System.
Padilla previously served as President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a non-partisan organization made up of more than 6,000 federal, state, and local officials dedicated to all aspects of civic engagement.
Padilla lives with his wife Angela and their three sons in the San Fernando Valley.
Connecticut | Vice-Chair
Connecticut | Vice-Chair
Denise W. Merrill was elected to her third term as Connecticut’s 73rd Secretary of the State on November 6, 2018. As Connecticut’s chief elections official and business registrar, Merrill has focused on modernizing Connecticut’s elections, business services and improving access to public records.
Secretary Merrill is focused on both civic engagement and fostering business enterprise. Since taking office, she has supported and expanded democratic participation, ensuring that every citizen’s rights and privileges are protected and that every vote is counted accurately. Secretary Merrill has worked to expand voter participation through Election Day and online voter registration. She has also improved Connecticut’s democratic accountability and integrity with a series of rapid response processes to Election Day problems. She was elected president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) for the 2016-17 term, was the co-chair of NASS’s Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council, and serves on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
As Connecticut’s business registrar, Secretary Merrill has made it easier for businesses to interact with the office by increasing online functionality, improving response times and connecting businesses with government resources. Merrill has partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center, the General Services Administration, and Small Business Development Administration to distribute information about business assistance and educational events being offered by these agencies. Secretary Merrill also launched an award-winning online business startup tool to help entrepreneurs navigate through various state and federal agencies. She also led the development of Connecticut’s e-Regulations System, an online platform that provides access to all agency regulation-making records with real-times updates.
Prior to her election as Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill served as State Representative from the 54th General Assembly District for 17 years, representing the towns of Mansfield and Chaplin. First elected to the General Assembly in 1994, Merrill rose to the rank of House Majority Leader from 2009-2011. She also served as the House Chair of the budget writing Appropriations Committee from 2005-2009, as vice-chair of the Education Committee from 1994-1999 and as a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee from 1995-1997. In a 2009 poll done by Connecticut magazine, Majority Leader Merrill was named by her colleagues in the legislature as “Most Respected by the Other Side of the Aisle” and “Most Effective Legislator.”
Secretary Merrill is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is licensed to practice law in the state of California, and is a classically trained pianist. She lives in Hartford. Her family includes husband Dr. Stephen Leach and his two sons, her three grown children and six grandchildren.
Rhode Island | Treasurer
Rhode Island | Treasurer
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made history when she was sworn in on January 6, 2015, becoming the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England. A proven leader who is taking on some of the toughest issues and getting results, she was re-elected to serve a second term in office on November 6, 2018. Secretary Gorbea believes government should work for people. As Secretary of State she has promoted increased civic engagement and government accessibility.
In 2017, she worked to pass automated voter registration, making Rhode Island the ninth state in the country to do so. She also improved Rhode Island’s elections infrastructure by implementing online voter registration and securing funding for modern voting technologies like electronic poll books. She has positioned the state as a national leader in elections cybersecurity. Her work to increase voter engagement, especially among new and young voters, is already seeing results. Rhode Island saw a 64 percent increase from 2014 to 2018 in the number of voters ages 18-20 voting in the general election.
Understanding the importance of preserving and highlighting Rhode Island’s rich and diverse history, Secretary Gorbea has initiated the development of a new State Archives to help Rhode Islanders understand and appreciate their state’s great history. She has also developed civics and history resources for teachers to use in the classroom, including collections of primary source archival documents, a Rhode Island historical timeline, and infographics about how government works in Rhode Island. These efforts are complemented by experiential learning offerings such as the High School Elections program, which offers schools the opportunity to hold their student government elections with real ballots and voting machines.
In 2018, Secretary Gorbea worked to modernize Rhode Island’s notary public laws to allow for electronic notarizations for the first time in Rhode Island. Her legislation also afforded more protections for consumers. She launched a new online Business Assistant to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state and continues to streamline processes in the Business Services Division.
In 2016, Secretary Gorbea ushered in tough legislation to crack down on violations of lobbying rules and make Rhode Island’s lobbying registration system a model for the nation.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Gorbea is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She is married to University of Rhode Island Oceanographer Steve D’Hondt. They live in North Kingstown with their three daughters.
Thank you Secretaries!
Watch the Video
Secretaries of State for California, Michigan respond to Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail
Watch the Video