Special election date to fill Maldonado seat is opposed by Central Coast registrars

As at least two registrars of voters seek to persuade the governor to change the date of a special state Senate election, the state’s new lieutenant governor, Abel Maldonado, says he won’t join in that campaign.

“Calling a special election was the governor’s decision. The lieutenant governor has already gotten to work holding meetings with economic development directors and working toward creating jobs. That’s his focus — not publicly questioning the governor’s decisions,” Maldonado’s office said in a news release.

Nonetheless, Monterey County Registrar of Voters Linda Tulett told The Tribune on Wednesday afternoon, “I’m trying to get the governor to change the date.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday set the special election Aug. 17 to fill the 15th District state Senate seat vacated by Maldonado when he was sworn in as lieutenant governor.

However, a special primary election must be held eight weeks before the special general election. That means the five counties in the 15th Senate District must hold two special elections. The special primary is scheduled for June 22 — two weeks after the June 8 general primary.

The governor could have scheduled the second election so that it coincided with the November general election.

That, said Tulett, would have saved the five counties millions. The counties are San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

County leaders were livid at having to hold two costly elections when they all are paddling through troubled financial waters. San Luis Obispo County, for example, is facing a $19 million budget deficit.

Frank Mecham, chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, called the scheduling “ridiculous. It just doesn’t make any financial sense to me.”

Representatives of several county governments wrote the governor asking him to schedule the election in a way that would hurt them less financially.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors wrote the governor that “we can barely afford to have the June and November elections.”

However, that plea fell on deaf ears.

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman, Aaron McLear, on Tuesday blamed the Legislature for the delay. He pointed out that the governor nominated Maldonado in November and the Legislature dawdled for five months before approving the nomination.

In addition, McLear said, waiting until the later date would leave the district unrepresented too long. With Maldonado’s resignation, there is no state senator for the Central Coast.

San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said it was “disingenuous” of Schwarzenegger to blame the Legislature. “He has complete control” over when to schedule upcoming elections.

“I don’t think he really cares what elections officials think,” said Rodewald, who also wrote a letter to the governor asking for the later date.

Central Coast Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, a San Luis Obispo Republican widely expected to enter the contest for the state 15th District seat, declined to take a position on the call for a different election date.

It is unclear whether the governor can legally rescind his proclamation designating the Aug. 17 election, but Tulett says she believes the elections code gives him that leeway. A call from The Tribune to the Secretary of State’s Office seeking clarification on the question went unreturned.

Political observers in Sacramento have said Schwarzenegger, a Republican, scheduled the special election in midsummer because he expects more Democrats to go to the polls in November.