As we watched him speed across the state in search of votes for a long-shot bid for statewide office, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado’s passion for small business and the small-business owner left a big impression.
Yes, in the crazy world that is California politics, the former Santa Maria city councilman finished short of the mark in his race against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a decidedly unimpressive figure among business types. Despite his reputation for bipartisanship, Maldonado got 39.4 percent of the vote, similar to the totals of most other Republicans running for statewide office on the down-ballot races.
Understandably, Maldonado will take some time off to weigh his political future. But we’d encourage him to stay engaged in politics — particularly as an advocate for California’s and the nation’s small businesses.
He has too much talent, too much passion for the role of the free enterprise system and too clear a vision of what it will take to fix California’s broken politics to sit on the sidelines for very long.
Though Maldonado lost, California voters seem to like the Maldonado agenda. In return for his swing vote on the 2009 state budget, Maldonado demanded the Legislature put two of his ideas on the ballot: an open primary, and a requirement that lawmakers not get paid when the budget is late. The voters approved both of them. Then, on Nov. 2, they also gave the green light to another of Maldonado’s favorite causes, when they expanded the state’s redistricting reform to include congressional districts.
With that, Maldonado solidified his reputation as an astute dealmaker. In the case of the San Bruno gas pipeline disaster, he’s also shown himself to be an effective crisis manager.
More important, Maldonado is an effective advocate for the forgotten sector of California’s economy: the thousands of entrepreneurs who are engaged in creating jobs in traditional fields such as agriculture, manufacturing and basic business services.
We suspect we haven’t seen the last of Abel Maldonado in California politics. We hope to hear from him again, soon.