The Lite Guv Intrigue Continues

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The nominee getting hit from both the left and the right... the urgency, or lack thereof, in having a new #2... and the fact that someone's actually doing the job as we speak.

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Photo: Getty Images

Yes, another intriguing week in store over a job that never gets any press in normal times: the office of lieutenant governor and the chances this month that Republican Abel Maldonado will get to order some new business cards.

It's no surprise that the choice of Maldonado by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a tougher, much more uncertain road in the Assembly than in the Senate. Last week's quick hearing before the Senate Rules Committee made it clear that, in the words of one Democratic senator, the "comity" of the upper house is going to prevail in elevating the senator from the Central Coast to the post.

Today, the lower house drama began to play out, with three Democratic assemblymembers summoning reporters to discuss the various reasons they plan to say 'no' to Maldo.

The charge was led by Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), who handed reporters a long list of bills in which he says Maldonado has voted the wrong way through the years (you can see the whole list provided by Nava's office here.) That list includes everything from social to environmental issues and beyond. It should be noted, though, that some of the bills on the list found Maldonado on the same side... pro or con... as even some Democrats.

"This is really a promotion," Nava told reporters. "And if you're going to be promoted, in most circumstances, you need to have outstanding performance. We don't have that with Senator Maldonado."

But the other two Democratic assemblymembers focused their opposition to the Maldo nomination elsewhere -- on the calendar.

"We should let the voters choose," said Assemblymember Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), noting that the 2010 race for the job of 'lite guv' is just around the corner. The leave-it-vacant argument was seconded by Assemblymember Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), who also added that Maldonado's deal making during the 2009 budget debate amounted to "blackmail."

It's worth noting that all three men are part of the Legislative Latino Caucus, which met last week to discuss the Maldonado nomination. The chair of that caucus, Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-LA), voted in favor of the Maldo appointment last week. But Assemblymember Mendoza told me this morning that the caucus of Latino legislators has not taken a formal vote on whether to support, or oppose, the nomination.

That's an awful lot of differing criticisms. Add to it today's announcement that the conservative California Republican Assembly is urging a 'no' vote, as well. And it's possible that such a cacophony could ultimately lead a majority of the 80-member Assembly to reject Maldonado's nomination (and there's new word that it will, in fact, go to the floor for a full vote).

For his part, Maldonado spent the morning with the governor at an event in San Luis Obispo, in the heart of Maldo's state senate district. His hearing before the Assembly Rules Committee -- originally scheduled for this afternoon -- has been pushed back until tomorrow.

Meantime, the lawmakers at today's event highlighted an interesting twist to all of this -- namely, that there is someone running the shop in the office of California's lieutenant governor, long after John Garamendi packed his bags and headed to Congress.

Mona Pasquil, who served as Garamendi's chief of staff during his time as 'lite guv,' is administratively serving as the person in charge. Communications director Beth Willon says while Pasquil certainly can't become governor or sit in the LG's chair as a University of California regent, for example, she can -- and is-- serving as the third voting member of the State Lands Commission in the absence of an official lieutenant governor.

By the way, one great example of that absence... can be seen on the LG's official website lately.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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