SLO County supervisors take Schwarzenegger, Maldonado to task over special election

In a blistering rebuke, the county Board of Supervisors ripped into Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado on Tuesday for neglecting taxpayers and county workers by backing a special election that could cost $3 million.

While the county clerk tries to figure out how to handle the additional state Senate election June 22, Maldonado “is currently running a lint brush over his tuxedo for his inauguration,” said Supervisor Adam Hill.

The remark alluded to Maldonado’s swearing-in ceremony as lieutenant governor Tuesday, an event that also drew derision.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of an inaugural for lieutenant governor,” said Frank Mecham. “It’s just amazing to me.”

“Who’s paying for that farce?” Hill asked.

Mecham said perhaps county supervisors should have inauguration ceremonies.

The scathing, sarcastic nature of the remarks came from county supervisors frustrated that Schwarzenegger called a special election Aug. 17 for the 15th Senate District seat. Under the state election code, a special primary election must also be held, eight weeks prior to Aug. 17.

That date would be June 22, two weeks after the regular primary election. It would mean that voters in this and four other counties touched in part by the 15th state Senate District would vote on June 8, June 22, Aug. 17, and Nov. 2.

The other counties are Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Santa Clara.

Supervisors said Schwarzenegger could have called the special primary in early fall and scheduled the runoff to coincide with the Nov. 2 election. That would have saved one election and an estimated $3 million in the five counties.

Supervisors voted to send a letter asking Schwarzenegger to change the date.

However, the governor’s spokesman said last week that he did not want to leave the Senate seat vacant that long, especially with budget negotiations coming up.

The spokesman, Aaron McLear, also noted that Schwarzenegger nominated Maldonado in November and if the Legislature had not played politics and delayed the nomination, the special election could have been scheduled to coincide with the June 8 primary.

Democrats have accused the governor of playing politics by selecting a mid-summer date that would draw low voter turnout, generally considered good for Republicans. Hill said the governor’s choice of election date is “clearly about shabby political motivations in trying to drive down turnout.”

That the county government, which faces a $19 million deficit, would become collateral damage in a Sacramento political battle clearly aggravated supervisors Tuesday.

Pejorative adjectives flew freely. Auditor-Controller Gere Sibbach called the governor’s decision “a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money.” Bruce Gibson called it an “outrage.” Mecham called it “disturbing.”

The dudgeon rose as Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald explained the possible consequences of the multiple elections: a shortage of polling places, different polling places from one election to another, a shortage of poll workers, a confused electorate, and a low turnout.

The frustration was exacerbated by the belief that Schwarzenegger is not going to listen to them and change the date. “Do I think he will? No,” said Rodewald.

There was also exasperation at the lack of support from Maldonado, who two weeks ago represented the district and whose departure from the Senate seat created the need for a special election.

Maldonado said last week he was busy working on the state’s economy and it was not his role to second-guess the governor.

Supervisor Jim Patterson added that Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee also has failed to speak to the governor, and the county feels it is friendless in Sacramento.