State Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nominee to fill the vacant lieutenant governor’s office – attended the governor’s appearance this morning at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, and spoke with a few reporters outside beforehand.
Asked about ongoing student protests against ever-rising fees at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, Maldonado said they’re right to be angry.
“We’ve let partisanship get in the way of what’s good for the state of California,” he said, adding students should be sent a message that there’ll be cuts in top education executives’ pay if fees are to increase; he said he worked with the UC Regents as “a hawk on executive compensation three or four years ago.”
He and Schwarzenegger were in town to tour the food bank while touting a “Million Meals Initiative” in which surplus money from the California Governor & First Lady’s Conference on Women will be donated to provide more than a million meals to needy Golden State families, and to draw attention to their plight.
He said he knows “nothing helps the cuts that we’re making” in California’s social-services safety net as a result of the budget deficit, and that no officeholder relishes making such cuts.
Neither Democrats nor his fellow Republicans have been thrilled by Maldonado’s nomination. Democrats have questioned the cost of holding a special election to fill his state Senate seat, and less publicly, their ability to win that seat as well as the wisdom of giving a Republican lieutenant governor the incumbent’s advantage going into next year’s election. Republicans have blasted him for his votes in favor of Democrat-written budgets and a minimum wage hike. The Legislature has until Feb. 22 to confirm him, and Sacramento remains abuzz with rumors of what’ll happen.
“This is what people are upset at, the politics,” he said, inviting his fellow lawmakers to give him an up or down vote based on his qualifications, not on political machinations.
Holding fundraisers Thursday a few miles away in downtown Oakland, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn – a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor – was inclined to agree.
“I don’t know why the Legislature would necessarily want to pick a fight with the governor on this issue” (of Maldonado’s confirmation), she said during an interview immediately after a luncheon fundraiser at Levende East – even if confirmed, Maldonado will face the voters later next year anyway, she noted. “He’s handpicked by Schwarzenegger, and I think that says it all.”
The “to-confirm-or-not-to-confirm” flap isn’t putting her off her own campaign message, Hahn said, which is that she’s the only local official in this race; all the other candidates on either side of the aisle are state lawmakers, and “the last time I checked, they had a 13 percent approval rating.”
Hahn’s rival for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor is state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. Besides Maldonado, the other Republicans seeking the job are state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, and state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced. (UPDATE @ 7:15 P.M.: D’oh! Denham’s out of the race. That’s potentially bad news for Maldonado; if confirmed, he’d have wanted Denham and Aanestad to split the conservative vote in the GOP primary, giving him room to squeak past both as the lone moderate.)
“I think I’m going to be an outsider, I think I’m going to be more of a reformer,” she said, noting that although she’s not nearly as well known outside Los Angeles she’s getting warm receptions all over the state because “I am sharing their pain on how they feel about Sacramento.”
“They’re very angry the guys in Sacramento came and took our local money, and I share this bond of anger,” Hahn said. “They want their cities to be able to provide the services that provide for a quality of life.”
She said she can accomplish that by making the California Commission on Economic Development – which the lieutenant governor shares – into a higher-visibility, more proactive agenda-setter for improving Californians’ lot, even while she stands against fee increases as a member of the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo arranged Hahn’s fundraising sweep through the city. Sources say about 25 people attended Hahn’s $150-a-head breakfast Thursday morning, and I saw about 40 at the $300-a-head lunch, including Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente; San Francisco attorney Melinda Haag, rumored to be announced soon as the Obama Administration’s pick as Northern California’s next U.S. Attorney; Oakland Police Officers’ Association President Dom Arotzarena; Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President Michael Colbruno, a Democratic activist; East Bay Young Democrats President Rebecca Saltzman; and Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin. I hear Russo is hosting a smaller, $1,000-a-head event for Hahn at his home tonight.