Governor Appoints an Ally to Fill Vacant Post

Maldonado must be confirmed by both houses of the state legislature.

Written by TAYLOR EVANKO / Published December 4, 2009

California state Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Barbara, has been selected to fill the vacancy created when then-Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi resigned to serve in the United States Congress.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his pick on November 23.

“Senator Maldonado has proven he has the strength and courage it takes to reach across the partisan divide and put the interests of Californians first,” Schwarzenegger said in a press release.

To officially serve as California’s second-in-command, the moderate state Senator must be approved by both houses of the state legislature. Lawmakers have 90 days to confirm the nomination.

Democrats enjoy a comfortable majority in the state Assembly, 49 out of 80 seats, and state Senate, 25 out of 40 seats.

Many Democratic legislators are disappointed that the Republican governor did not pick a Democrat to succeed Garamendi.

“Why would Democrats confirm?” asked John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party.

Other Democrats, such as state Senator Dean Florez, who is running for the Lieutenant Governor’s position in 2010, doubted Maldonado would be confirmed.

Republican state senators are equally unhappy with Schwarzenegger’s choice.

If Maldonado is confirmed, he would have a distinct advantage as an incumbent. The moderate Republican senator would probably face a tough primary election.

Maldonado has been criticized for voting a multi-billion dollar tax increase in order to balance the state budget. His action, along with other moves Maldonado has made over the years, have earned him the recognition of a moderate lawmaker, drawing concerns within members of his own party.

On the other hand, Maldonado’s willingness to compromise may give him an attribute that Californian voters are looking for, and which party officials expect will assist him in the general election.

Still, Democrats have a good reason to confirm Maldonado to the post.

If Maldonado leaves his seat, the 15th senatorial district will be vacant, which will result in a special election many Democrats believe their party is capable of winning.

An additional seat would leave the Democrats one vote shy of having a 2/3rds majority in the state Senate. Having a supermajority would allow Democrats to override a veto, pass a budget and raise taxes.

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