State Senate Confirms Maldonado as Lieutenant Governor
On a 25 to 7 vote, the 40-member Senate confirmed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nomination of Sen. Abel Maldonado to become lieutenant governor, a job vacant since John Garamendi’s election to Congress in November.
The Santa Maria Republican, who broke ranks with the GOP and helped pass a budget in February containing tax increases of nearly $19 billion over two years, said he hoped to sworn in April 27 and would focus his energy on job creation.
“Tomorrow morning will be the end of ridiculing the office of lieutenant governor,” Maldonado told reporters after his confirmation vote. “California is going to have a lieutenant governor who is going to work very, very hard” and help create “jobs, jobs and more jobs.”
In return for his vote on the budget, Maldonado insisted Democrats abandon a proposed gas tax increase and place a measure on the ballot restoring California’s open primary law that allows voters to choose candidates of either party at the polls. The top-two vote getters advance to the November election.
That measure is Proposition 14 on the June ballot.
Of the Senate’s approval of his nominee, the GOP governor said in a statement:
“Senator Maldonado is a model of post-partisanship, reaching across the aisle to improve education and strengthen public safety. As Lieutenant Governor, he will get right to work and use his experience as a business owner to help grow and create jobs”.
Maldonado was approved April 23 by the 80-member Assembly on a 51 to 17 vote. While some Democrats praised his bipartisanship, others were critical of his record.
Assemblyman Pedro Nava, a Santa Barbara Democrat and Attorney General candidate, criticized Maldonado for having a 21 percent environmental voting record, according to the Sierra Club.
Besides being a University of California regent, the lieutenant governor is one of three members on the State Lands Commission, which makes decisions about offshore drilling and other resources issues.
Part of Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal is premised on the commission allowing more drilling along Tranquillion Ridge off the coast of Santa Barbara and using the state royalties from the drilling to support California’s park system.
Maldonado reiterated April 26 he did not support the expansion of drilling there without an assurance drilling platforms would eventually be removed.
Maldonado told reporters he would resign his Senate seat shortly before being sworn in as lieutenant governor.
Confirmation of Maldonado by the Democratic majority Legislature is based in large part on their belief that demographic changes in Maldonado’s district could allow Democrats to take the seat.
The likely Democratic candidate is former Assemblyman John Laird of Santa Cruz, located in the northern part of Maldonado’s lengthy coastal district. He is expected to likely square off against termed-out Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, 138 miles to the south.
Waiting until after April 23 allows Schwarzenegger to schedule the likely run-off between the Democratic and Republican candidates to coincide with the November 2, 2010 election. Democrats hope the added turnout of a general election will push their candidate to victory.
Maldonado said April 26 he favored consolidation of the run-off with the general election.
“We should all be in the business of saving money,” he told reporters.
Winning a second Senate seat centered in Salinas being vacated by Jeff Denham, a Merced Republican, would then give Democrats 27 seats and a two-thirds majority in the upper house.
It’s unclear whether Maldonado can win the GOP primary, which is 43 days away.
Among the “no” votes on Maldonado in the Senate was San Aanestad, a Grass Valley Republican, who is running for lieutenant governor.
“Don’t be in a hurry to change the drapes too soon,” Aanestad advised his colleague.
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