Maldonado Humbled as Lieutenant Governor Pick

November 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger announced his pick for lieutenant governor last night, but the State Assembly and Senate still must approve republican Abel Maldonado for the job.                  |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

With his family at his side, Lt. Governor-nominee Senator Abel Maldonado choked up and marveled at how only in America can poor migrant workers come to this country and see their son achieve so much.

"That dream is complete, governor. It really is amazing," said St. Sen. Maldonado.

Confirmation of a Republican, though, even a moderate one, might be hard to get through a Democratic-led legislature.

Democrats are already complaining how much a special election to replace Maldonado would cost $2 million.

Privately, they absolutely hate to give up a statewide office to someone across the aisle because the 42-year-old will have a leg up in next year's elections, but they risk alienating a core constituent group if they fight Maldonado's nomination.

"If we reject somebody who is Latino, it might be seen by some as a slight to the Latino Community," said Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio.

Maldonado has also bucked his party and sided with Democrats on several key votes like the budget. But if he remains a Senator, next year could be a different matter.

"I should think he would be very embittered if the Democrats turn him down, much less willing to help them on budget votes," said political analyst Tony Quinn.

The upside for Democrats to confirming Maldonado is it opens up his Senate seat and gives the party a chance to win the Central Coast district which is now trending blue.

Senate Democrats would then be a heartbeat away from a two-thirds majority to pass budgets and tax increases.

"The Democrats would just be absolute idiots not to take this opportunity," said Quinn.

The Legislature has 90 days to act.

The next Lt. Governor will only fill the seat for one year and would have to vie for the party's nomination in next year's primary; an uphill battle for Maldonado whose party vilified him for voting for higher taxes earlier this year.

"I think the important thing now is that Democrats and Republicans, you know, confirm this appointment and they don't look at it in a political way, but they look at it as what's best for the state of California," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California.

If Senator Maldonado does get confirmed, he would be the only Latino to hold statewide office. A Latino Republican hasn't held one since 1875.


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