Maldonado will run for lite gov post

State Sen. Abel Maldonado will seek the lieutenant governor’s seat whether or not the Legislature confirms him to the vacant post. See my story about Maldonado’s visit to the Contra Costa Times editorial board today at http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_13910929

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
State Sen. Abel Maldonado will run for lieutenant governor in 2010 whether or not the Legislature confirms his nomination to fill the vacant post.
The Santa Maria moderate Republican confirmed his decision during a 45-minute meeting Wednesday with the Contra Costa Times editorial board.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently named Maldonado as his choice to succeed Democrat John Garamendi, who was elected to Congress in a special election in November.
Since the announcement, Maldonado has been on the road pitching his qualifications for a job many Californians, if they think about it at all, view as superfluous in a high-tech state where the governor is rarely out of communication range.
But Maldonado praised the oft-maligned post as an opportunity to focus on economic development, education and form a partnership with a governor who has described the senator as his “soul mate.”
“I don’t know of a business or large operation that doesn’t have a No. 2,” said Maldonado, the gregarious, 42-year-old son of immigrant farm workers who now own and operate a major agricultural company.
He had some pointed words about the prior lieutenant governor’s job performance, too.
“I’m not going to be a lieutenant governor who goes to Los Angeles and San Francisco and all over the state beating up on the governor,” said Maldonado, clearly referring to Garamendi’s frequent and very public criticism of Schwarzenegger.
Maldonado said he will embrace voters’ choice of governor even they select Democrat Jerry Brown over potential GOP candidates Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner or Tom Campbell.
“Brown will love having me as lieutenant governor, someone who will sell what he wants for California because that’s what he sold to the people of California,” Maldonado said. “I want to be a partner whether it’s a Democratic or a Republican in office.”
Maldonado knows his bipartisan approach aggravates party leaders on both sides of the aisle.
They especially dislike Maldonado’s June 2010 ballot measure, which asks voters to create a nonpartisan primary system for state offices. If it passes, the top two voter-getters in the primary regardless of party would compete in the general election.
As a result, his confirmation in the Democrat-controlled legislature is far from certain.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has already expressed “grave concerns” about the estimated $4 million cost of a special election to replace Maldonado in the Senate.
And despite the potential incumbency boost, Maldonado’s prospects of a victory in a Republican primary, dominated by conservative voters, are equally unpredictable.
Conservatives call Maldonado a RINO, or “Republican in Name Only,” for his yes vote on a state budget that contained tax hikes and his successful bill that increased the state’s minimum wage.
He says much of the grief comes from “people who are unelected who want to manipulate elected officials and who should run for office if they think they are that good.”
Maldonado visibly bristled at critics’ assertion that Schwarzenegger nominated him as reward for the critical vote on the stalled state budget earlier this year. He was one of five Republicans who split with their party voted for the budget, which required a two-thirds vote.
“I think I am better than that, I really do,” he said. “I think the governor chose me because I have never let a Republican or a Democratic party get in the way of what’s good for California … I am the one who agrees with him on where we would like to seek California go.”
The Legislature has until late February to vote on Maldonado’s nomination. The candidate filing period for the 2010 primary election opens March 12.
Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773 or www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen