LOS ANGELES (AP) – With substantial advantages in fundraising and party support, Democrat Alex Padilla on Wednesday became California’s next secretary of state, beating first-time Republican candidate Pete Peterson for the job overseeing state elections.

Padilla, forced from his job as state senator because of term limits, took 53 percent of the votes to Peterson’s 47 percent.

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The secretary of state is responsible not just for organizing California’s elections, but also regulating political fundraising and overseeing business registration.

In an interview, Padilla said his early priorities would be allowing businesses to register online, working with his former colleagues in the Legislature to require more frequent reporting of campaign contributions and overhauling the state’s clunky website that lets people analyze political fundraising patterns.

In a nod to the exceptionally low voter turnout Tuesday, he added that he wants to register more voters and make it easier for Californians to cast ballots.

“As far as increasing civic engagement, yesterday was just another reminder how hard it can be,” Padilla said.

During the campaign Padilla emphasized his experience in Sacramento. After graduating with an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has represented a Los Angeles district for the past eight years.

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Peterson returns to his position as executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership. He also consults with local governments on increasing public participation in the political process.

Though Peterson ran a spirited campaign focused on what he cast as the broken bond between the government and the people, he could not overcome the Padilla campaign’s deeper pockets and broader organization in a deeply Democratic state.

Current Secretary of State Debra Bowen was termed out after eight years. The former state lawmaker has been absent frequently as she battles depression.


Contact Justin Pritchard at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman


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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.