Abel Maldonado: Not A Hero

As mentioned over at Calitics, the California media seems to be fawning over Abel Maldonado for successfully forcing an open primary amendment through the legislature. Without getting into a discussion of whether open primaries are good policy or good for the parties, I instead want to ask whether the process by which the proposal was adopted. First, George Skelton’s laudatory language:

Normally, it might take years for a citizens reform group to place an open primary proposal on a statewide ballot. Sen. Abel Maldonado did it in less than a week.

Actually, the heavy work was done in less than 24 hours.

The brashness, the audacity, the tenacity of this Republican lawmaker from Santa Maria in ramming such a landmark measure through a Legislature that ordinarily wouldn’t have touched it in a blue moon made him the single biggest winner of the budget-tax brawl that finally ended in the Capitol at dawn Thursday.

The state, broke, has been withholding income tax returns because it doesn’t have the money on hand. Infrastructure projects had been halted, and those that had previously been exempted on the grounds of public safety were also about to be shut down. State employees were being ordered to take mandatory furloughs, and tens of thousands were about to be laid off. California has the lowest municipal bond rating in the country. Months of Republican obstructionism had blocked any reasonable budget, and a dubiously legal work-around had been vetoed by the governor. Finally, a budget compromise had been worked out, in secret, with no hearings and few publicly released details, and only one vote in the Senate remained to get it passed. And Abel Maldonado saw an opportunity.

Actually, the heavy work was done in less than 24 hours.

No. The heavy work was on the budget, and had been going on for months while Maldonado complained about the costs associated with relocating the State Controller’s offices. There was no heavy work on the open primary. There were no hearings, no public comment, no testimony by expert lawyers or political scientists, and certainly no discussion of whether this kind of open primary will benefit the populace. Open primaries are an article of faith among some ‘centrists’ and ‘reformers’, so there was no need to have a debate on whether open primaries would drive up the costs of or lead to voter confusion. Washington state has this kind of open primary, but there was no discussion of the results there. Instead, the proposal was rammed through the legislature with nary a debate. Whatever ‘winners’ there may be in this entire debacle, good governance certainly isn’t one of them.

We have a word for people who exploit the fears of others for political gain. Holding hostage the welfare of the poor, the disabled, the young, the elderly, and the ill to advance some dubious electoral change is as morally reprehensible as taking civilians hostage to free a ‘political prisoner’. For 72 hours, Senator Maldonado, you held this state hostage in an attempt to ease your path to reelection, and for that I name you extortionist. And George Skelton, for your praise of his tactics and results, I name you apologist. May both of you be punished as the people of this state see fit.


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