2 elections ordered for Maldonado vacancy in Central Coast Senate district

Five counties, including San Luis Obispo, must hold not one but two special elections this summer to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Abel Maldonado, who was sworn in Tuesday as lieutenant governor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a proclamation late Tuesday calling a special general election Aug. 17 for voters in the state Senate’s 15th District. There must be a special primary election eight weeks earlier, which is June 22 — two weeks after the state’s regular primary.

Schwarzenegger could have timed the election to coincide with the November general election but chose not to do so despite requests from county clerks in the 15th District, according to Julie Rodewald, San Luis Obispo County clerk-recorder.

Rodewald said the decision affects five counties that have a portion of the 15th District — San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Monterey and Santa Clara.

Each special election could cost the county $500,000, she said.

The county is facing a $19 million budget deficit.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Frank Mecham, chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. “It just doesn’t make any financial sense to me at all.”

He said it’s frustrating to see money being spent and energy being wasted.

“If you have a state that’s in a financial mess, why would you want to exacerbate it?” Mecham asked.Supervisor Bruce Gibson said he suspects that it was “a political maneuver.”

Aaron McLear, the governor’s spokesman, said Schwarzenegger considers it “irresponsible not to fill the seat as soon as possible.”McLear added that Schwarzenegger nominated Maldonado last November, and he blamed the Legislature for stalling before finally confirming Maldonado. “Five months they sat on this,” McLear said.

Had the Legislature acted more quickly, the special election to fill the vacant Senate seat could have been consolidated with the June 8 primary, he said.