Latinos upset at Maldonado rejection

Several local Latinos said Thursday that while they may not have agreed with all of state Sen. Abel Maldonado’s political decisions, they would like to see him seated as lieutenant governor, and they expressed disappointment about his rejection in the Assembly.

The Latinos interviewed said they support seeing a Hispanic politician in such a prominent role, noting that Cruz Bustamante also formerly held the second-highest-ranking state office.

Latino Outreach Council member Joe Quiroz, a Paso Robles resident and a Democrat, said he supported the Republican Maldonado’s confirmation.

“I haven’t always agreed with his voting record, but he has been willing more recently to move toward the middle,” Quiroz said. “I think a basis for our whole problem in California is political robots in the Legislature. Too many people blindly follow agendas and, to his credit, Abel hasn’t done that.”

Quiroz added that most Hispanics are Democrats in California because of traditional Republican views on immigration and bilingual education, and that Maldonado is uncommon as a Hispanic Republican.

Maldonado is the son of Mexican immigrants who started out as farmworkers. The state senator from Santa Maria became a multimillionaire and president of the lucrative family farming business.

“He’s a success story, and he came from a very humble background,” said Rich Benitez, the outgoing chair of the Latino Outreach Council.

Benitez said he appreciates that Maldonado has been willing to cross the aisle and pointed to his vote to pass Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget that was heavily criticized by Republicans.

The coordinator of the local Vision Unida leadership program, Loraine Dueñez, said she’ll be disappointed if Maldonado isn’t seated.

A Democrat, Dueñez said “I think it would have been good for him to be (confirmed) because he’s from here and it’s always good to have a local person.”