Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

CA Senate vacancy likely; Laird could enter race

07_09_Laird_Senate_46_LRGFormer gay state Assemblyman John Laird (pictured at right) may be house hunting soon in the Santa Cruz area in order to resurrect his political career.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced late Monday, November 23 that he had picked state Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Barbara) to fill the vacant lieutenant governor post. The pick was widely expected in Sacramento, and it opens the way for Laird to run for Maldonado’s 15th Senate District, which runs along the central coast covering parts of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

Although he doesn’t live within the Senate district, Laird had told the Bay Area Reporter earlier this month that it would only require him moving a short distance in order to meet the residency requirement.

“It is something I would consider if there is a vacancy; so that’s the story,” he had said when asked about a possible run.

Laird saw his statehouse political career cut short last fall when he was termed out of the state Assembly and had no other political office to seek, as he did not want to run against a sitting Democratic senator in the district in which he does live. When he was elected to the state Assembly in 2002, he was one of the elected body’s first two openly gay members.

Since leaving public office the former Santa Cruz mayor had said he hoped to return to politics someday. He has been serving on the state’s waste board and is set to teach a course on environmental policy this January at University of California, Santa Cruz.

According to the Sacramento Bee, state lawmakers have 90 days to act on Maldonado’s appointment. If either the Assembly or the Senate rejects him on a majority vote, he will remain in the Senate and the governor would have the option of finding a new nominee or leaving the job vacant.

If the two houses approve Maldonado on a majority vote – or fail to act within 90 days – he would fulfill the final year of John Garamendi’s term.

The governor would then call for a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat, which is likely to be held sometime in late spring or early summer.

The lieutenant governor position came up for grabs after Garamendi, the Democrat who held the post, resigned after he won a special election for an East Bay congressional seat that became vacant this summer. In a release sent to reporters, the governor said he picked Maldonado, a fellow GOPer, for his ability to reach across the aisle.

“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 and he is absolutely the most qualified person to take on the role of lieutenant governor,” stated Schwarzenegger. “Senator Maldonado shares my commitment to creating a transparent, accountable government that works for the people. He will be a true partner in solving the critical issues facing our state and building a stronger future for California.”

Maldonado also broke party ranks to back budget bills, and his appointment is seen as payback by the governor for facing harsh criticism from his Republican colleagues and a failed recall threat against him.

“Like the governor, I learned the values of hard work, dedication, and personal responsibility at a young age and place a high priority on reforming California’s broken government so that it is more responsive to and reflective of California’s diverse population,” stated Maldonado. “I’m honored to take on the position of lieutenant governor and I look forward to working with the governor to tackle important issues facing California and to ensure all Californians have the opportunity to realize their own American Dream.”

Maldonado, 42, of Santa Maria, attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where he completed coursework in crop science. The position requires Senate and Assembly confirmation and pays $159,134.

It is mostly a ceremonial post but does break tie votes in the state Senate. The lieutenant governor also sits on several state commissions, including the University of California board of regents.

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 23, 2009 @ 7:21 pm PST
Filed under: News

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