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Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,
I see that Abel Maldonado has been appointed lieutenant governor. What do you think of the pick?

 — Stunned in Santa Maria

Dear Stunned,
I, too, was shocked by what I saw this week. The events of the last few days have brought into sharp focus what many of us have known in our hearts for quite some time.

Just six years ago, Jay Leno was the king of late night television. He hosted one of the world’s biggest stars in the middle of the weirdest political story since Florida to make the most shocking political announcement of the decade that had world-wide repercussions.

Fast forward to this week, and a struggling Jay Leno is up against CSI, and all he can get out of Schwarzenegger is a lieutenant governor pick? Does anyone in California give a lick about it? Heck, I know that I don’t care. I can’t imagine why Jane McCornfield in Ames, Iowa would care either.

No wonder people are turning the channel when Spongebob Squarechin hits the airwaves. If this whole episode has taught us anything, it’s how far and fast Jay Leno has fallen.

A quick correction from your question, however, Stunned. Maldonado has not been appointed anything. He’s the governor’s pick for the job, but that doesn’t make it so. In fact, Maldonado faces tough opposition from members of both parties in the state Senate, including the four members of that body who want his job. If I were a betting man, and trust me, I am – I’d put my money against Maldonado.

Schwarzenegger, of course, knows all this. But hey, this little charade of selecting Maldo allows the governor to make up for the bad blood he caused in 2006 by not endorsing Maldonado in a contested Republican primary against Tony Strickland (who also will have a vote on Maldonado’s confirmation, by the way).

Rejecting Maldonado is an easy call for Steinberg, when you think about it. Either way, he’s going to piss off a sitting senator – either Maldonado, or fellow Democrat Dean Florez. Sure, rejecting Maldonado this time means that Steinberg will never get another budget vote from him. If we know anything about Maldonado, it’s that he carries a grudge.

Remember back in 2006, when Schwarzenegger refused to endorse Maldonado in a GOP primary, Maldo fired back that the governor was essentially selling out Latinos by not backing his candidacy. We can’t wait to here the vitriol he’s got stored for Steinberg if and when his nomination goes down.

So, Maldonado finally gets what he wanted four years ago – the loving political embrace of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Maldonado is probably about to get a very real world education about what that embrace is worth. Here’s a hint – you’re probably going to get rejected from the very club that you’re a member of. But at least you get that podium photo op, and the memories of that will last a lifetime.

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