Why Abel Maldonado Won’t Be the Next Governor


With the California Democratic Party gathering in Sacramento this weekend and the Republican National Committee meeting in Los Angeles, it’s a good time for more normal human beings to consider some practical politics, to wit: why Abel Maldonado won’t be California’s next governor.

First of all, there’s Jerry Brown. Who — if he opts to run again, which virtually everyone expects him to do — will be re-elected.

Even if Maldonado comes in second in an open primary — which is possible – he would lose among Latinos because Brown marched with Cesar Chavez, dated Linda Ronstadt, named Cruz Reynoso to the California Supreme Court, made Mario Obledo his Secretary of Health and Welfare and signed into law the Agricultural Relations Act.

Oh, and he’s a Democrat who, like his party, supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Maldo’s line — “the son of immigrant field workers versus the son of Sacramento” – doesn’t cut it when he’s up against a guy who can mail out prayer cards with a snapshot of himself and Mother Teresa.

So even with his team of nationally-known consultants – including adman Fred Davis of “Demon Sheep” fame – the 45-year-old former Lite Gov from Santa Maria is up against a governor whose portrait is up there on the wall behind the counter in loncherias and cantinas alongside JFK and the Pope.

With the Grover of Norquist and other right-wing ideologues lined up against him for giving former Gov. Arnold Schwartzmuscle a key vote to raise taxes (in exchange for the open primary), Maldonado would also have a hard time pulling a big vote from Republicans.

And forget independents: Gov. Gandalf speaks to their unaligned hearts.

Also, it’s worth noting that in his last electoral outing, in the 24th Congressional District race of 2012, where Democrats only outnumbered Republicans 38% to 35%, Maldonado lost to U.S. Rep Lois Capps 55-45%. Oops.

Sure, Maldo could help move his party into the 21st Century, especially if he comes out squarely for a pathway to citizenship that includes a process that the average Latino in California finds reasonable – for their parents or children or cousins or neighbors.

But he’s not going to knock off Jerry Brown. Who’s only 75.

Now, if Brown were to decline to run for a fourth term and Maldonado were up against Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris or Antonio Villaraigosa, he might have a chance of getting closer. But as a Republican, he still would lose.

“I believe it’s time for the (Republican) party to go in a different direction,” Maldonado said last week.  “We need a new way, he said. The California GOP – with official registration now below 29% — must be “inclusive and optimistic and inspiring.”

That’s true. And the drive by Ruben Barrales with his Grow Elect organization – seeking to rebuild the GOP from the ground up – offers some promise for the California Republicans. But electing Latino Republicans to local non-partisan office and building the GOP bench is a long-term process.

Not one that Abel Maldonado can breeze past – especially not against Gobernador Brown.

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There are 14 comments for this post

  1. avatar fredtyg says:

    After reading this, it doesn’t look like there’s any good major candidates on the list for next time. Another great opportunity for third party voting.

  2. avatar udrysa says:

    Dear Calbuzz – FYI: the San Diego City Council, currently 4 Ds and 4 Rs just unanimously passed a resolution supporting a pathway to citizenship, so…not convinced the Ds have a monopoly on immigration reform.

  3. avatar smoker1 says:

    Maldonado is by far the best candidate the Republicans have. He is the only one with a chance of breaking 40%. Except for him, I doubt that any Republican candidate for any statewide office will break 40%. More interesting is the question, “Will there be any Republican in a position to run for Governor in 2018?” The only person I can think of is Jeremy Lin (if he is a Republican and if he starts averaging 20 points per game).

  4. avatar LAScoop says:

    I do not profess to know Maldonado’s chances against Brown but I do believe your logic about Latino voters and Brown is deeply flawed and circa 1970. Brown does not have a lock on Latino voters. A huge segment of that vote doesn’t know any of those people you referenced. Whether Maldonado can connect with Latino voters is indeed a significant challenge but definitely not based on any of your logic.

  5. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Oh, I think the logic is pretty good. The facts are there. They would be brought up — vividly and repeatedly. Even too-young-to-remember Latinos would be reminded of Brown’s track record. There are photographs with Cesar Chavez, you know. And don’t think for a moment that social media wouldn’t be used effectively by a Brown campaign to reinforce his image of going to bat for Latinos over decades.

  6. avatar gdewar says:

    Maldonado can’t win his own party’s primary simply because of his name. He himself said so when he did a poll outlining his qualifications and he was ahead. Once they said his name, all those old white people who think anyone with brown skin is automatically either an illegal immigrant or a recent immigrant (i.e. “not American”) said “No Way!”

    So long as the GOP keeps pandering to this base, they will continue to lose. Remember, the Democrats nowadays can put up flakes like Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris up for statewide office and win, despite their many flaws. That’s not the democrats “winning” that is “winning because the opposing side keeps shooting themselves in the food with a shotgun.”

    Party on, Democrats – enjoy your time in office. Just know it wasn’t all you.

  7. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:


    Let’s discuss the other side of Maldonado, the side that could win in the governor’s race of 2014, the side that’s not all pretty for the esteemed governor Jerry Brown. (Jerry Brown and I worked successfully together on three of his welfare reform bills and helping my constituants on the effects of the Loma Prieta forest fire…so this fight is not personal for me.)

    I recently posted in “Flash Report” about the governor’s race in 2014 and the “Hail Mary” that the moderate former Lt. Governor, Abel Maldonado, could pull off to win that race over Governor Jerry Brown.

    As you wrote, in his winnable 2012 Congressional race, former Lt. Governor Maldonado worked hard to obtain the backing of Hispanics in his district but met with only modest results. Hence, he lost the election against an “Anglo” incumbent with an appreciable number of conservatives not voting in his race.

    That similar but enhanced statewide 2014 pro-Hispanic effort a la the Bush Texas governor’s race, this time based on creating more and better jobs in California could bring, if done skillfully, Maldonado’s share of the Hispanic vote to 35%-40%, enough to beat Jerry Brown. There is true potential there as history shows. For instance, George Bush received about 40% of the Hispanic vote in his successful governor race in Texas. That applies provided Maldonado could control to a low roar the conservative No-On-Maldonado vote.

    (Maldonado and I fought like cats an dogs about his 2004 political shenanigans but I told him I would back him in this race. There are other conservatives who would pardon the former Lt. Governor for his tax increase sins if he appeared he had a real shot at beating Governor Brown.)

    Here is the heart of my theory. The Hispanic unemployment rate in California is around 15%, half again more than the average unemployment rate. So a jobs creation program that was so effective nationwide in retaining Republican majorities for the House Republicans in 2012 would work well in California if sold by a credible person. And Maldonado could pull that off as he is, as you wrote, a second generation Mexican American son of field workers. So, the “Hail Mary” is the additional Hispanic votes that Maldonado could obtain which an “Anglo Republican” could not. In other words Brown pics with Ceasar Chavez and Mother Theresa could get trumped by Maldonado leadership on jobs for lower income Californians.

    Further, unlike the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat large state governors, Jerry Brown has not featured California jobs creation programs. What a colossal failure to chase global warming and choo-choo train solutions instead of jobs for low income Californians! No wonder we have the 4th highest unemployment rate among the fifty states.

    It would be of significant long term benefit to reviving our California Republican Party if Maldonado won the governorship or just got into the runoff with Governor Brown. The many minority nationalities of California would be given proof that Republicans are pro opportunity and never mind the color of your skin or your ethnicity.

    We need a new governor whose primary objective is to put the unemployed back to work and for those working at low wages to earn better pay. And that’s done through strong state support of businesses investing in California jobs…Republican style. Not by Democrat Jerry Brown style of increasing taxes on business to create ineffective global warming credits costing business billions or Valley high speed choo-choo trains traveling from nowhere to nowhere and costing an initial $60 billion of our hard earned tax dollars.

    Maldonado is too smart to miss out on my “Hail Mary” theory for it is a true Republican pro-business model that kept the House of Representatives Republican in 2012. It is Maldonado’s ONLY chance to beat Brown.

    Abel, not Jerry, is the hope and best choice for Californians and Hispanics who want to work and economically thrive again.

    Stay tuned my friends,

    Ernie Konnyu (R-San Jose)
    Former Member, U.S. Congress

    • avatar Sideline says:

      I live in good Mr. Maldonado’s part of the State. Here is how a Hispanic friend of mine explained his dismissal of Abel as a candidate: “He’s not a farm worker. He’s a grower.” Just goes to show that it’s not about ethnicity, it’s about class. It is why African-Americans did not go gaga for Herman Cain, or Clarence Thomas or Alan West or the newest dark-skinned hero of the Right, Ben Carson. I don’t vote for someone just because he’s white-like-me and, you know, that’s pretty much how we all are, as it turns out.

  8. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    I don’t know, Ernie. You make the best case for Maldonado I’ve heard so far (it’s early days) but do you really think those white old men in the Central Valley that make up such a large part of the Republican base would really vote for a Latino? Wouldn’t they just sit on their hands and hope for a future Republican Anglo candidate?

  9. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    You are right for that is Maldonado’s danger on the right. I tested a cure out for that with some of the leaders of the Silicon Valley Conservative Forum. Got one out five, was refused with two, and the other two stayed ambivalent.
    I think a Maldonado victory in the primary would move most conservatives in his corner given the runoff opponent would be Governor Brown.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      There is no Republican primary. It’s an open primary. Maldonado would be competing in June to get into the finals in November. If a conservative Republican gets in the race, I’m not sure where Maldo gets his votes. Maybe he’d come in second. But maybe not.

  10. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Ernie is the first person I’ve ever heard call Maldonado “smart.” I’m willing to consider any compelling evidence of this. But, so far, I’ve seen none. Nada, zip, bupkis. The man appears to be as dumb as a post. Of course, that didn’t stop Dubya. So maybe Maldo should try running in Texas.

  11. avatar JohnF says:

    The republicans are still lost as far as living in the 21st century goes. Probably too many of them will not vote for Abel for two reasons, one he once voted for a slight increase in taxes and two he is not white like the tea party conservatives who believe that only white is right. It does not really matter which reason prevails in the republican voters mind. Sad, as democracy needs two good parties.

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