The Maldonado matter


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) to be lieutenant governor more than a month ago. The Legislature must soon begin grappling with the governor’s budget plan, so it should waste no further time and swiftly confirm Maldonado to the post.

Democratic lawmakers might drag their feet on confirming their Republican colleague for several reasons, all of them bad. Perhaps they think they can use the confirmation as a bargaining chip with the governor. That’s just silly. Schwarzenegger completely outmaneuvered the Democrats on budget negotiations last year, and nothing as -- let’s be honest -- inconsequential as his pick for lieutenant governor is going to move him to change a budget stance now.

Maybe they want to prevent a Republican from taking a statewide office in an election year, so there will be no incumbent to get in a Democratic candidate’s way. But why reserve a do-nothing job for one of their own, when they have a chance to confirm a pragmatic, moderate Republican ahead of a GOP primary in which, if recent history is any guide, voters would otherwise pick the most conservative candidate?


Or maybe Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) was serious when he expressed concern about the cost of a special election to fill the Senate vacancy Maldonado would leave. In that case, the Legislature should act well before Feb. 16, so the election to replace him could be consolidated with the June primary.

Delaying confirmation would be a statement by Democrats that despite their assertions to the contrary, they would rather sit by while hard-right Republicans punish their moderate colleagues for crossing party lines, as Maldonado did in key budget votes, instead of offering such pragmatists any encouragement. It would be an unmistakable signal that they prefer perpetual party warfare to the post-partisan vision urged by Schwarzenegger and Maldonado. It would be shameful -- and damaging to California.

Some Republican lawmakers are considered likely to sit out the vote rather than give a moderate colleague a leg up in the primary. That shows they’re every bit as capable as Democrats of shooting themselves in the foot. Just for a change of pace, why don’t they support a Republican with cross-party appeal for a down-ballot statewide office?

It’s not that it matters much who the lieutenant governor is. But it does matter that lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, show that they can occasionally be grown-ups and put the interests of the state ahead of petty party concerns. Get it done. Confirm Maldonado.