Schwarzenegger backs off legal threat over Maldonado


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday backed off his threat of a court fight over his choice to fill the vacant lieutenant governor job, asking the state Assembly to vote again on whether to confirm state Sen. Abel Maldonado for the post.

The governor said he would withdraw and resubmit Maldonado’s nomination “to avoid wasting time and energy on litigation that should be spent passing a jobs package that will get Californians back to work.”

The maneuver resets the 90-day clock for lawmakers to approve or reject Maldonado, a moderate Republican from Santa Maria who was approved by the state Senate. In the Assembly on Thursday, he received only 37 votes for his confirmation and 35 against it, rather than a 41-vote majority either way.

That led to a war of words between the governor’s office and the Assembly over whether or not Maldonado had been rejected. The administration contended that a majority of the Assembly’s 80 members would have to vote against Maldonado for his nomination to be dismissed. The state Constitution says the nominee takes office if he is “neither confirmed nor refused confirmation.”

Assembly Speaker-elect John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) maintained that, as in other legislative action, the failure to secure 41 votes needed for passage was a rejection. Assembly Democrats said they would refuse to recognize Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

Pérez issued a statement Friday saying that the Assembly had spoken and that the governor’s move “changes nothing.”

“By resubmitting this nomination, it is clear the governor is more interested in partisan bickering instead of solving the problems” of the state, he said.

Maldonado also issued a statement Friday, saying: “I’m humbled and thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for confirming me to the lieutenant governor’s office and very disappointed with yesterday’s show of extreme partisanship and politicking in the Assembly.

“The inability to come to a simple majority consensus on important issues is why Californians are rightfully disillusioned by Sacramento politics,” he said.

Anthony York is a Times special correspondent.