State Sen. Abel Maldonado cleared a critical hurdle Wednesday in his bid to become lieutenant governor when the Senate Rules Committee gave the Santa Maria Republican a 4-0 vote of confidence.
State Sens. Darrell Steinberg, Gilbert Cedillo, Robert Dutton and Jenny Oropeza voted to send Maldonado’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote sometime next week.
Rules Vice Chairman Samuel Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, abstained because he is also running for lieutenant governor in the June primary.
If the Legislature approves Maldonado’s appointment, he would serve until January, unless elected to the post later this year. The position was vacated when Lt. Gov. John Garamendi was elected to Congress in November.
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Members of the committee said that they may disagree with the 42-year-old Maldonado on various issues but added that he was qualified for the job.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more fair hearing,” Maldonado said by phone moments after the three-hour session adjourned at 4:30 p.m. “I’m so grateful the committee has confidence in me.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Maldonado for the position, announcing the appointment on “The Jay Leno Show” in November. Schwarzenegger said he liked Maldonado’s bipartisan reputation.
Maldonado, who represents San Luis Obispo County, told The Tribune editorial board in December that he wanted to end the partisan culture in Sacramento “where legislators take it personally if you vote against their bills.”
Maldonado broke ranks and angered fellow Republicans when he sided with Democrats on budget and tax issues. Though he sides with the governor on rejecting higher taxes in finding a solution to the state’s budget morass, he has also said he wouldn’t dismiss out of hand other revenue generators put forth by Steinberg, the Democratic Senate president pro tem.
Maldonado said that the committee had asked “pointed questions” on a variety of topics ranging from sitting on the board of trustees for the California State University system to his position on requiring a two-thirds vote to pass legislation. He would let the electorate decide the two-thirds issue.
If appointed to the post, Maldonado would be one of three members sitting on the State Lands Commission, which has blocked Schwarzenegger’s offshore oil drilling proposals in the past.
Maldonado told The Tribune editorial board that he has opposed offshore drilling in the past, but that he’s not unequivocally opposed to drilling if it means that oil platforms would eventually be removed.
Maldonado said that if his nomination for lieutenant governor is approved, “The residents of the 15th District will still be my boss.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.