Calif. Assembly Rejects Lt. Governor Nominee

State Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, left, smiles as the Senate Rules Committee approved his nomination for Lieutenant governor at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010. Democrats and Republicans on the committee joined in a 4-0 vote to send his nomination to the full Senate for final approval. Maldonado was nominated for the position by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a democrat, was elected to Congress in November of last year.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

February 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
California has a new lieutenant governor -- maybe. While Democrats are vowing to fight it in court, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks it is a done deal and his appointee has the job.

In typical Sacramento style, nothing gets done easily. The courts may actually be the ones who ultimately decide who takes over the vacant lieutenant governor's seat -- a nine month position.

Despite twisting arms all day and meetings to try and sway votes, State Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, came up four votes short of becoming California's next lieutenant governor, but the Central Coast moderate Republican claimed victory anyway.

"I must tell you that I feel honored and I feel great with the vote that I received and look forward to promoting my jobs agenda that I talked about," said Maldonado.

The Senate confirmed Maldonado, but the Assembly did not. The Schwarzenegger administration believes it has the California Constitution on its side. It thinks confirmation or rejection must be by majority vote. Since Maldonado did not get the majority vote either way in the Assembly, he automatically gets the job 90 days after nomination. Democrats say no way.

"You need to be confirmed, confirmed by both houses. That you were confirmed by one and not the other is not good enough," said Assmb. Charles Calderon, D-Whittier.

This surely touches off a battle, possibly for the courts to decide.

While most lawmakers agree, Maldonado is qualified to be lieutenant governor, the Democratic-controlled Assembly fought hard against his confirmation because he had an "R" after his name and has ambitions to keep the post. That would keep give him an advantage over Democrats in November's election.

"While Senator Maldonado came before the rules committee, I asked him are you a candidate for Lt. Governor? In very much an expression of candor and honesty, he said 'Yes, I am,'" said Assembly member Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland.

If this does go to court, the fight will likely be over the definition of rejection. However, the governor's office is already making plans to swear in Maldonado around Feb. 22.