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Schwarzenegger has plum position to fill

With the lieutenant governor winning a seat in Congress, the governor can name his successor. The nominee must win approval from the Democratic-dominated Legislature.

November 05, 2009|Shane Goldmacher

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will have a plum political post to dole out after Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is sworn into Congress today, vacating the No. 2 slot in California government.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has the power to name the replacement for Garamendi, a Democrat, in a political decision that has been much chattered about in Sacramento. That power, however, doesn't rest with Schwarzenegger alone: The Democratic-dominated Legislature must confirm his pick, setting up a potential showdown.

Further complicating matters, four sitting state senators are seeking the post in 2010. The lieutenant governor has few official powers, but the job appeals to politicians hoping to springboard their careers.

Schwarzenegger, who slashed the lieutenant governor's budget by two-thirds earlier this year, declined Wednesday to name any potential candidates or the criteria by which he would judge them.

Speculation is rife that he will choose a like-minded political moderate. One name frequently mentioned in Capitol circles is Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), who regularly crosses party lines. But that would vacate a legislative seat that Democrats could try to pick up.

Maldonado has run for statewide office before and could seek reelection to the post as an incumbent, a perch the majority Democrats seem unlikely to concede.

Democrats say they would prefer a caretaker appointed until the next year's elections -- or perhaps no one at all.

"I'm not sure it's absolutely necessary to fill the position," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said she was hoping for a "unifying appointment," which she defined as a candidate who would not seek reelection in 2010.

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shane.goldmacher@ latimes.com

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