As acting governor, the fiery natural gas line explosion last Thursday pushed Lt. Gov. Maldonado into the spotlight. The Central Coast Republican was quick to get on CNN at 3 a.m. Pacific Time following the explosion.
Maldonado addressed reporters numerous times from the scene with updates.
The moderate Republican, who was appointed by Schwarzenegger earlier this year and is down in the polls in the lieutenant governor's race, says it was not for political gain.
"I'm the lieutenant governor of California. Today, I am the acting governor of California," said Maldonado. "And when there's an accident or a tragedy, you need to show up. It's doing your job."
Maldonado's opponent, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has more name recognition, declined to be interviewed.
But the Democratic Party accuses Maldonado of trying to score political points with voters.
"He surely didn't do any harm," said California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. "But he was probably listening to his campaign managers and said, 'Why don't you fly up there? This would be a good photo op.'"
After things were under control in San Bruno, Maldonado publicly signed bills aimed at preventing pay scandals like the one occurring in the city of Bell.
But he failed to file an appeal in the Proposition 8 case, which was due the same day. The move angered same-sex marriage opponents, who are now fighting Prop. 8 on their own.
"He's been nothing more but an opportunistic, typical politician," said Karen England, Capitol Resource Institute. "He's exploiting the situation in San Bruno and what took place in Bell."
"When the governor left, we discussed what was going to happen in the state. Proposition 8 wasn't one of them," said Maldonado.
Schwarzenegger had already announced his administration would not appeal Prop. 8.
Schwarzenegger is expected back from his trade trip to Asia Wednesday afternoon and will proceed directly to San Bruno to see the devastation. One political analyst said that's just what politicians do: They need to show people they care.