California Assembly confirms Maldonado as lt. governor |

California Assembly confirms Maldonado as lt. governor

Cathy Bussewitz
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The California Assembly set politics aside Thursday – at least temporarily – and confirmed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nominee for lieutenant governor.

The nomination of Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado now goes to the Senate, but the Assembly was seen as his biggest hurdle. Maldonado was confirmed on a 51-17 vote, well above the simple majority needed in the 80-member house.

The chamber rejected his nomination earlier this year, in part because some lawmakers objected to his role in last year’s budget debate. The Republican from Santa Maria agreed to raise taxes only if lawmakers placed an open primary measure on this year’s ballot, an idea generally opposed by both major parties.

Some Assembly members still complained about Maldonado’s voting record and said they shouldn’t support someone who will be a rubber-stamp for the Republican Schwarzenegger’s agenda. Yet the prevailing sentiment was that it was time to move on and deal with other issues.

“We need more people in this Legislature who are willing to cast difficult votes,” said Assemblyman Juan Arambula, an independent from Fresno, noting that Maldonado has at times been willing to break ranks with his Republican colleagues.

Some lawmakers objected to Maldonado’s nomination because he also is running for the lieutenant governor’s post in this June’s Republican primary. Naming him to fill the vacant position could give him an advantage against his primary opponent, state Sen. Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley, as well as in a potential general election race.

If the Senate confirms him as expected, Maldonado would become the highest-ranking Hispanic in state government. The 42-year-old is the son of farm workers. He would fill the position that has been vacant since Democrat John Garamendi won a congressional seat last November.

Maldonado said he feels great about the Assembly’s confirmation vote, but will wait for the Senate vote, scheduled for Monday, to celebrate. He did call his family to let them know the news.

“They’re doing a one-handed clap,” Maldonado said, noting that the final step remains. “I feel optimistic.”

Maldonado said that if he is confirmed, he’ll get to work right away on promoting job creation.

As lieutenant governor, Maldonado would sit on the State Lands Commission.

After the Assembly rejected Maldonado in February, a frustrated Schwarzenegger threatened to seat him anyway, drawing the threat of a legal challenge from the Assembly. On Thursday, the Republican governor praised the chamber for “putting the interests of Californians ahead of politics…”

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, will face Maldonado in the June primary.

“I think this is a very blatant attempt to influence that election and I don’t think that’s going to work,” Aanestad said in an interview Thursday. “I think people are sick and tired of backroom deals and people getting political favors because they vote for tax increases.”

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