Abel Maldonado's lieutenant governor nomination moves forward in Assembly

Sen. Abel Maldonado is hoping the second time is the charm for his lieutenant governor nomination.

After five months of confirmation limbo, both houses of the Legislature will give Maldonado another chance at the post vacated by Democrat John Garamendi after he was elected to Congress.

The Santa Maria Republican’s first shot at the job was thwarted in February, when the Assembly failed to muster enough votes to confirm his nomination. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then appointed Maldonado a second time, resetting a 90-day clock for the Legislature to confirm or reject the nominee.

Though Maldonado fell four votes short on the Assembly’s last vote on his nomination, he has an important ally during its next vote, expected today. Speaker John A. Pérez, who voted “no” in February, has now offered his support.

“When the speaker of the California Assembly says to you that he intends to vote for you and go get your votes, I think that’s great news,” Maldonado said Wednesday. “It’s a step in the right direction, and I’m very, very optimistic.”

But Pérez has cautioned that Maldonado has to “go and find his 41 votes” he needs to clear the Assembly. Maldonado, who is running for lieutenant governor in the June Republican primary, said he planned to spend Wednesday afternoon petitioning colleagues for support.

After an hourlong grilling that covered everything from education cuts to taxing swap meets, the Assembly Rules Committee voted Wednesday to send Maldonado’s nomination to a floor vote. But the committee stopped short of recommending a “yes” vote, and several members remained unconvinced.

“I am still considering it,” said Rules Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Some of Maldonado’s more vocal critics haven’t budged.

“His votes and his record remain the same. There’s been no improvement,” said Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

But Maldonado said he felt the more congenial tone of the hearing was a good sign.

“No one was there hard, saying, ’Well, I’m going to vote no. No, no, no.’ Last time was a different hearing,” he said.

The 90-day clock runs until May 17. A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the Senate will set a vote if the Assembly approves the nomination.