Californians demand that legislators work in a bipartisan fashion to fix the pressing issues that the State faces, but few politicians in Sacramento are willing.
Take for example, Schwarzenegger’s nomination of Abel Maldonado for Lt. Governor.
Everybody says that the Lt. Governor post is not important, but since a Lt. Governor could become governor, confirmation of the Governor’s nominee has become a fiery partisan fight.
Last year, Schwarzenegger nominated Abel Maldonado, a Republican Latino legislator from Santa Maria to serve as Lt. Governor for ten months. (The former lieutenant had left after winning a seat on Congress.)
Schwarzenegger must have calculated that Maldo, as he is often called, was a safe bet.
Maldo is a moderate. In February of 2009, he ended months of nightmarish budget talks, by breaking party lines. Of course, he set some conditions before casting his vote: He asked for no salary increases for legislators and elected officials in times of budget crisis. He also asked for an initiative on the June ballot: open primaries in California, which would allow voters to cross party lines. Open primaries, he argued, would mean more moderates at the State Capitol.
In order to take office as Lieutenant Governor, Maldo needed a majority vote of the State Senate and a majority vote of the State Assembly within 90 days of the nomination.
Maldo got all the votes that he needed from the Senate. A number of prominent Latino democrats, like Gil Cedillo, Lou Correa and Gloria Romero, crossed party lines in order to endorse him. Their main argument: he has the skills. The senators who voted for him wanted to demonstrate that they could work in a bipartisan fashion. This is very important at a time when approval ratings for state legislators have hit rock bottom.
However, in the Assembly, things were not as easy. Even though nine Democrats voted for him, the main leaders, Karen Bass and John Perez, among others, rejected him.
Last Tuesday, Governor Schwarzenegger nominated Maldo again. The whole process, with all the drama, will start once more.
According to one of his main opponents, speaker elect John Perez, Maldo’s initial nomination emerged from a back room deal, which is something people are against. I think Perez is implying Maldo did not win because he and other legislators are morally against his tactics.
But another Latino, independent assembly member Juan Arambula from Fresno, said democrats didn’t want to confirm Maldo because he said he would run for the Lt. Governor post, which is a six year term. If Maldo is confirmed, as an incumbent, he would get more attention from the media. Although it’s not an automatic boarding pass, democrats do not want to give a republican an advantage over democrats.
I don’t know if he will get the job or not, but I feel sad to see our legislators wasting precious time fighting against the confirmation of a capable Latino leader who is willing to break ranks, an uncommon and much needed trait in the State Capitol.
Some of Maldo’s critics say that he did not break ranks for the good of California, but for his own political benefit; his award was the nomination. That could be true, but all politicians behave for their own benefit. That’s how politics works. But at least some of them do it for a very good reason, like saving California money as Maldo did in February 2009.
Editor: María Ginsbourg.
Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.