Mayor Richard Riordan built the modern Los Angeles. Supervisor Brooks Firestone kept Santa Barbara County from splitting. Gov. Ronald Reagan created the economic foundation for the Silicon Valley boom.
What ever happened to achievement-driven Republicans?
If you ask state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, the GOP in the Golden State is locked in a battle between accomplishment and ideology. And at the moment, ideology is certainly winning.
In case you have been hiding under a rock for the past month or so, Maldonado cast the deciding vote on a budget compromise that kept California from falling off a cliff.
For that, he’s reaped the scorn of party elders and, in a bit of political payback, he’s been cut off from party funding for a 2010 race.
But Maldonado is not backing down. In an animated phone conversation with me on Feb. 23, the Santa Maria business owner vowed nothing less than an extreme makeover for the way politics gets done in the Golden State.
“The future for Abel is to reform California. It’s a broken state right now,” he said, thumbing his nose at the party bosses who want to shut off the cash spigot.
Maldonado’s diagnosis of what’s wrong is encapsulated in the brutal, expensive and bitterly fought 19th District state senate campaign between liberal Hannah Beth Jackson and conservative Tony Strickland.
Strickland won by the narrowest of margins, but Maldonado says that’s unfair to the vast majority of voters in a district that’s largely centrist in its politics.
“You had Tony on the right, Hannah Beth on the left, and that’s not where that district is at,” said Maldonado, a self-described pragmatist who succeeded centrist Democrat Jack O’Connell.
Maldonado scoffs at the no-taxes pledge that has become a litmus test for GOP candidates. “Ronald Reagan raised taxes three times, and I think he did a pretty good job,” he said.