Politics & Government

Abel Maldonado bypassed by Trump for Agriculture secretary

Former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado leaves Mar-a-Lago after meetings with President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla.
Former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado leaves Mar-a-Lago after meetings with President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla. The Associated Press

Santa Maria farmer and former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado was not chosen to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Instead of selecting Maldonado, President-elect Donald Trump picked former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for the job.

Shortly after the reports of Perdue’s pick, Maldonado responded on social media, thanking Trump and his senior staff for the chance to be interviewed and considered.

“The process was honorable, thorough and transparent, America can rest assured that the USDA will be in good hands with Governor Sonny Perdue,” Maldonado wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Maldonado said he looks forward to working with the new Agriculture secretary “on anything he may need.”

Bypassing Maldonado means Trump’s Cabinet will lack any Latinos.

On Jan. 6, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials called for Trump to nominate Maldonado.

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also hoped Maldonado would be chosen.

“He grew up as a migrant farmworker; he’s picked the crops, he ran a family operation that depended on agriculture,” Javier Palomarez, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told Politico. “No one has come close to that kind of experience.”

In late December, Maldonado traveled to Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, to discuss the Cabinet position.

“Enjoying a beautiful bottle of Trump Sparkling Wine,” Maldonado tweeted Tuesday along with a photo and including Trump’s signature hashtag #MAGA for Make America Great Again.

He also reserved praise for the Trump hotel in another tweet Tuesday.

Maldonado is a former Santa Maria councilman and mayor who served at the state level as an assemblyman and senator before being named the state’s 48th lieutenant governor.

Santa Maria’s community youth center bears Maldonado’s name.

He has experience running his family’s strawberry and row-crop farming business, and more recently entered the winemaking business with his daughter by launching Runway Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley appellation.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who publicly lobbied for Trump to choose Maldonado, expressed regret when the president-elect picked Perdue.

“Obviously, the choice wasn’t based on substance,” Schwarzenegger said Thursday through a spokesman, according to Politico.

He added, “Because if it was based on substance, Abel would have gotten the job hands down.”

The Department of Agriculture is made up of 29 agencies and offices with about 100,000 employees at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad.

Janene Scully is North County editor for Noozhawk, a Santa Barbara-based news website. She can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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