Partisan bi-partisanship?

So it looks like the state Assembly Rules Committee has delayed its hearing on Abel Maldonado‘s nomination to be lieutenant governor until 2:30 tomorrow. What the Democrats are planning remains to be seen, but the end result they’re hoping for seems all too clear.

To use a frightful cliche, the Democrats are in a win-win situation on the lieutenant governor nomination. Indeed, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenerio where they don’t ultimately get control of the lieutenant governor’s office.

Let’s game this out. Maldonado is a moderate Republican, nominated by a moderate Republican governor. At times, it’s hard to tell who the right wing hates more — Maldonado or Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, regardless of whether Maldonado gets confirmed, Sen. Sam Aanestad has already announced (to great applause from the right wing) that he’s running for lieutenant governor.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for the Democrats — get Maldonado confirmed, and then he and Aanestad split the Republican vote, allowing a Democrat (Janice Hahn, Dean Florez or even, maybe, Gavin Newsom) to cruise to victory. This way the Democrats talk up how bipartisan they are in confirming Maldonado while secretly preparing to unseat him during the upcoming election.

A recent op-ed by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez played up the bipartisan angle, but was almost Machiavellian in praising Maldonado. At times it read like the liberal Democrat Nunez was giving Maldonado a bear hug that would enrage right-wing Republicans far more than inspire fellow Democrats:

* “Sen. Maldonado is all we could ask for of a Republican — a moderate with a history of working with our party to pass critical pieces of legislation.”

* “He has proven time and again that he is someone Democrats can count on to genuinely consider issues put before him without a partisan lens clouding his vision.”

* “Look no further than his support of raising the minimum wage.”

Of course, all Democrats may not be on board with such a plan. Indeed, today’s Bee reports that three Assembly Dems Pedro Nava, Tony Mendoza and Jose Solorio — are agitating for their colleagues to vote down Maldonado. The plan, apparently, would be to force Schwarzenegger to appoint a Democrat as lieutenant governor, which the party could then rally around and support during the election against Aanestad.

I know it’s hard to believe that Democrats and Republicans would stoop to such tactics in a fight over lieutenant governor, the most useless elected official in the state, but hey, it’s just politics.

-Anthony Pignataro

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