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Senate confirms Maldonado for lieutenant governor

The Senate confirmed Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor on Monday, giving the Santa Maria moderate his first statewide position and replacing John Garamendi, who left the job to take a seat in Congress.

The Senate approved Maldonado in a 25-7 vote, just days after the Assembly gave its approval. A special election to fill Maldonado’s 15th Senate District seat has not yet been called.

Monday’s action marked the second time that the Senate voted to confirm Maldonado: In the first go-round, the Senate approved him, but the Assembly blocked him. Gov. Schwarzenegger immediately reappointed him, setting the stage for another confirmation fight.

Maldonado was scheduled to be sworn in Tuesday, although as of Monday afternoon the time and place for the ceremonies had not been set.

Maldonado’s Central Coast district spans from San Luis Obispo to southern Santa Cruz County. Democrats hold a small registration advantage in the district, and it is considered one of the few remaining competitive legislative districts in the state.

The governor, who has the authority of setting the dates for special elections, may wish to consolidate the runoff election for Maldonado’s Senate seat with the Nov. 2 general election, which would save money. A consolidated election likely would mean a higher turnout than a standalone special election. Democrats believe that a consolidated election would give them a better chance of winning Maldonado’s Senate seat.

Maldonado had been at odds with his own party for his votes on Democrat-drafted budgets. He also raised concerns among environmentalist that he was considering support a controversial offshore oil-drilling project off the Santa Barbara coast. Maldonado has since said he would not support the project. If he is confirmed as lieutenant governor, Maldonado will have a seat on the three-member State Lands Commission, which has jurisdiction over drilling.


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