Making Abel Use of Maldonado
Now that he’s been confirmed as California’s lieutenant governor, let’s ponder what’s next for Abel Maldonado, assuming he’s victorious in the Republican “lite guv” primary.
My suggestion: Meg Whitman, assuming she’s at the top of the ticket, should make Maldonado her running mate. Print bumper stickers bearing both candidates’ names. Campaign together in Latino neighborhoods, where Maldonado is comfortable in two languages. Stump together in ag communities, where Maldonado can talk about growing up in a farming family.
This would be an unusual move, by California practices, as gubernatorial nominees usually have little interest in the race one floor down. But there are several reasons why embracing Maldonado would help Whitman — and, in return, Maldonado’s chances of keeping his new job:
1) Bio Balancing Act. You can bet on Jerry Brown’s campaign reminding voters of Whitman’s charmed (they’ll say: privileged) life: Ivy League education, fabulously wealthy, living the good life in Atherton, spending oceans of money to win office. Being in the presence of Maldonado, the eldest son of immigrant Mexican-American farmers who used their family savings to send young Abel to Cal Poly, is a nice rebuttal to the Democrats’ “GOP”, as in “Girl of Privilege”, assault on Whitman.
2) Experience. Remember when Barack Obama first introduced Joe Biden as his running mate? He cited Biden’s foreign policy savvy, his blue-collar roots, and his willingness to speak his mind (and speak and speak and speak . . . ) with his running mate, if need be. Whitman, who like Obama, isn’t a beer-and-shot kind of candidate, can benefit from a down-to-earth sidekick who not only knows his way around Sacramento, but also has a political independent streak (much to the chagrin of conservative Republicans).
3) Hispanic Media. Blocked by the Assembly in a previous confirmation vote, Maldonado did something quite clever: he camped out in Southern California and worked the local Spanish-speaking media. That made life extremely uncomfortable for the new Assembly Speaker, John Perez, who didn’t want to cause a lasting rift between his party and Hispanic voters over the black-balling of Maldonado. In the fall election, Maldonado once again could work the Hispanic media — this time, to defend the GOP on illegal immigration (should the Dems make that a wedge issue) and the likely shot from the left that Whitman is the second coming of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
4) Whither Jerry and Gavin? Like a chicken fight in a swimming pool, Whitman-Maldonado should welcome a two-on-two matchup with Jerry Brown and (let’s assume) Gavin Newsom. Jerry lives across the Bay, in Oakland. His oft-vague, sometimes centrist candidacy doesn’t need the personal and political baggage Newsom brings from the other side of the Bay Bridge. If I were Whitman, I’d task Maldonado with a very big job responsibility — pension reform, government downsizing, etc. — and challenge Brown to do the same with Newsom. My hunch: the last things the Brown campaign desires is the hyperambitious Newsom nipping at its heels.
There’s still another five weeks until the primary. Then we’ll see if the GOP is one happy familia — and the concept of a Republican ticket becomes a reality.