Padilla is a moderate Republican who wants to win the state’s next governor

California Sen. Alex Padilla is campaigning hard — just not for himself.

The Republican lawmaker is pitching his newly opened seat as a choice between a liberal state and a conservative district, a potential antidote to the kind of “crossover” GOP victory Republican Gov. Jerry Brown almost never wins.

Padilla has been outspent by Democrat Rep. Gil Rivard, who is seeking to succeed retiring Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who was himself a Democrat until taking a hard turn to the right just weeks before the election.

“We are seeing the worst of partisan politics right now,” said Padilla, who was elected last year with nearly 60 percent of the vote, a margin Brown has never lost in his nearly five decades on the job. That is a remarkable turnaround from the 1990s, when Brown beat Democrat Phil Hart in a wave election.

Padilla, a former state Supreme Court justice, has touted himself as a pragmatist who has a record of being a moderate Republican.

“I know how to win in the Bay Area and I know how to win with the middle of the district,” he said, adding that he believes his district is more Republican than most.

But Padilla was pressed by supporters and local political experts to explain why he would decide to stay in the race even though he’s struggling financially and with his health. There is also the question of whether voters will reward him for leaving the governor’s mansion and leaving a top-tier job in the state.

Gilson Louie, Padilla’s campaign manager, said the race was about more than just winning the district.

“We just want the voters to feel good about the candidate,” said Louie.

Padilla, who has given $1 million of his own money compared to Rivard’s $75,000, says he intends to continue fighting to make improvements on the roadways throughout the district, in Sacramento and beyond.

“I want to make things better and I want to do it in Sacramento,” he said of efforts to improve the state’s roads, as well as to improve the economy in the area.

But he also will do the work of the district, which is more Democratic than the statewide vote, making him a potential target for independent voters.

Padilla is the first Bay Area candidate in recent history to make a run for the Senate next year — and he is the first political newcomer to lead a campaign for office in the Bay Area in

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