Friday, March 1, 2024

Future of Abel Maldonado as California Lieutenant Governor Remains Uncertain

Yesterday, the California Assembly voted 37-35 in favor of confirming Abel Maldonado to be the next Lieutenant Governor.  And yet, his confirmation – or rejection – remains uncertain and contested.

As reported last week in La Plaza, (link to story), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in November that he would be nominating Maldonado to be his second-in-command.  The seat had previously been held by a Democrat, John Garamendi, who left the position to run for U.S. Congress for California’s 10th district, a seat which was left vacant when former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher accepted an appointment to the Department of State by President Obama.

Since that time, Maldonado’s pending confirmation has been mired in partisan politics.  The Assembly vote followed an overwhelming confirmation vote by the State Senate of 26-7.  Breaking ranks with fellow Democrats in opposing the nominee, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez said, “The question for me was whether I would have supported Senator Maldonado if he was on the ballot.  I would not be able to vote for him if he was on the ballot, so in my mind it made no sense to support him now.”  Florez is himself a Democratic candidate for the Lt. Governor position.

Democratic leaders in the legislative body assert that Maldonado needed a 41 vote majority in order to be confirmed, but Schwarzenegger and the camp supporting Maldonado are claiming that his rejection would have required 41 dissenting votes.  The governor has indicated that he will proceed under the premise that Maldonado has in fact been confirmed, saying in a statement: “Based on the votes taken today, Sen. Abel Maldonado will be sworn in as the next lieutenant governor.”

Democrats do not agree and have vowed to oppose any attempts by the governor’s office to install Maldonado. “This isn’t some Third World country with a puppet government. … The governor cannot turn around and say ‘I’m going to swear him in anyway,’ “said Charles Calderon of Whittier, speaking for Assembly Democrats.” If he does that, I think he’s going to look pretty silly.”

Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, who next month will ascend to the position of Assembly Speaker, said the governor’s actions show “he thinks he can impose his will on the Legislature, no matter what the constitution or common sense says.”

This confusing political situation for the California state government does “not bode well for negotiations” on another budget deficit, according to one Republican lawmaker.   With threats of legal action by some, what can be predicted with confidence is a considerable amount of political wrangling in days to come.