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Rules Committee clears Maldonado for Lt. Gov.

February 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's nominee for lieutenant governor faced a major test Wednesday in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Republican Senator Abel Maldonado is hoping politics won't hinder his confirmation.With his migrant farm-worker parents watching, state Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) acknowledged his humble beginnings and choked up at the start of his confirmation hearing for California's Lt. Governor.

"Today, they're here with me on this important day ... " said an emotional Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).

But the emotion stopped there.

The Democratic-led Rules Committee had serious questions about why they should let a moderate Republican take an office that's just a heartbeat away from the Governor's seat.

"There's no secret that I have an 'R' next to my name. But on every vote that I've ever taken, I've never let that dictate how I'm going to vote," said Maldonado.

That's exactly why conservatives don't want to see his confirmation through.

The Central Coast Latino sometimes bucked his party.

Democrats, on the other hand, have a lot to be thankful for in Maldonado because he often was their swing vote on budgets and some tax increases.

In the end, the bipartisan committee unanimously cleared his nomination 4-0, a huge first step that takes his confirmation to the Senate floor.

"I'm just grateful for the vote they casted and now we go to the full floor," said Maldonado. "At that time, I've got my work cut out to get 21 votes."

But there may be one other advantage for Democrats to confirm Maldonado. There would be the possibility of electing another Democrat to replace him.

"A lot of Senate Democrats relish the opportunity to pick up Mr. Maldonado's Senate Seat," said Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio. "It's one step closer to the two-thirds majority they need to pass a budget."