Editorial: Confirm Maldonado, and quickly

The state Legislature should waste no time confirming state Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

Here’s why scheduling is a factor: If the Legislature acts by Feb. 16, the election of Maldonado’s successor in the Senate can be consolidated with the June primary. If lawmakers dillydally beyond that date, a special election will have to be called.

In this economic climate, such an expense would be unconscionable. In fact, we think it would be grounds to throw the procrastinators out of office.

Given Maldonado’s record, we see no reason why both houses of the Legislature should not be able to move swiftly on his confirmation.

With more than 10 years of experience in the state Legislature, Maldonado is an experienced politician who knows Sacramento well. He’s also a moderate on most issues and he’s a political realist who knows how to work the system to get what he wants — as we saw when he managed to get open primaries on the ballot.

The Santa Maria Republican also has shown considerable courage in bucking his party to cross over and vote for the budget and other issues.

Conservative Republicans still nursing a grudge over that may be tempted to vote against him.

They shouldn’t. Maldonado is the governor’s top choice, after all, and as long as a candidate is well qualified, we see no compelling reason why the Legislature should deny the governor his opportunity to appoint whom he chooses.

Beyond those factors, Maldonado appears to be genuinely enthusiastic about the position. So much so, he plans to run for the position next year, whether his appointment is confirmed or not.

Granted, he almost certainly views it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things — though he declined to say what those things might be. And he did outline some goals for the lieutenant governorship in a meeting with The Tribune’s editorial board on Monday.

As chair of the state’s Commission for Economic Development, Maldonado said he would work to recruit and retain businesses, which is crucial to the state’s economic recovery. He also promises to “sell his (the governor’s) vision.” And in perhaps his most ambitious pledge, he said he’d make every effort to get the budget passed on time.

Bottom line: We believe Abel Maldonado would capably fill out the final year of the lieutenant governorship. We urge both houses of the Legislature to confirm the governor’s appointment in a timely manner.