At first blush, there doesn’t seem to be too much connection between Nao Takasugi and Abel Maldonado.
They are generations and miles apart in their backgrounds. But Takasugi, who passed away Nov. 19 at age 87, and Maldonado, who was nominated to the lofty post of lieutenant governor shortly before Thanksgiving, do share plenty of common political ground.
Both came from agrarian roots, worked in family-owned businesses and overcame adversity to make their mark as moderate Republicans. Both rose to prominence in the state Legislature, with Takasugi representing Oxnard and Maldonado representing Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.
Takasugi’s way was to hold fast to values, support free enterprise and make steady, methodical progress toward goals. When the city of Oxnard turned down his request for a permit to put up a sign for the family’s store, he ran for city council and won — setting a career in motion.
Maldonado also built a reputation as a champion of small business. He, too, has been patiently building his career in politics and had the fortitude to hang in there after a narrow defeat for controller.
Takasugi’s family was interned during World War II in a government seizure of property that cost it most of its possessions. With help from the Quakers, Takasugi gained release from the camp to attend college and eventually earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Maldonados worked their way up from the fields of Santa Maria to own Agri-Jal, a large family farming enterprise.
Maldonado made both friends and enemies when he became the last vote needed to break the budget deadlock with California hanging on the edge of insolvency.
With Sam Blakeslee, Maldonado’s successor in the Assembly, now serving as minority leader, the Central Coast has carved out quite a legacy for leadership in the Republican Party — it is a rich history that stretches back to Takasugi and many others.
If California’s Republican Party is going to regain the majority in the state, it could do a lot worse than to look to the politicians who have brought common sense, fiscal responsibility and a measured, pro-business approach to their offices.
That’s why it is wise to honor the amazing life and career of Nao Takasugi — a life that was memorialized in Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” It also would be wise for the state legislature to approve Abel Maldonado’s nomination for lieutenant governor with deliberate speed.