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Abel Maldonado (born August 21, 1967 in Santa Maria, Californiamarker) is a Republican U.S.marker politician who is currently a California State Senator. On November 23, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Maldonado as his nominee for Lieutenant Governor to fill the vacancy created by John Garamendi's election to the United States House of Representatives. Maldonado ran unsuccessfully for California State Controller in 2006. Maldonado was the first Republican in the State Senate to vote for the budget during the budget deadlock in 2007. He represents a swing district and is considered a moderate. Prior to serving in the State Senate, Maldonado was a member of the California State Assembly and Mayor and Councilmember of Santa Maria. He achieved financial success as a strawberry farmer.

Early life

Maldonado is the eldest son of immigrant Mexican-American farm workers. His family eventually acquired a small family farm, where they raised strawberries. After Maldonado graduated from Santa Maria High School, his family used their earnings from the farm to send him to California Polytechnic State Universitymarker in San Luis Obispomarker, where he majored in Crop Science.Maldonado dropped out of college before his Senior year. Maldonado brought his college experience back to his family's farm and helped his family grow the half-acre strawberry farm into a 6,000-acre (24 km²) farm, employing 250 people, with produce shipped around the world.

Early political career

After months of attempting to obtain a building permit from the City of Santa Maria to construct a cooling facility on the farm, Maldonado grew disillusioned with the city bureaucracy and decided to run for the Santa Maria City Council in 1994 at the age of 26. In 1996, at the age of 28, Councilman Maldonado successfully ran for mayor, defeating the incumbent's re-election bid.

State legislature

In 1998, at the age of 31, Mayor Maldonado was elected to the California State Assembly with 60% of the vote in the 33rd District, representing San Luis Obispo Countymarker and western Santa Barbara Countymarker. Maldonado was reelected in 2000 with 65% of the vote and in 2002 with 63% of the vote.

In 2004, Maldonado was elected to the California State Senate by a margin of 53% to 43% over his Democratic opponent, San Luis Obispo Countymarker Supervisor Peg Pinard, in a district evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The 15th District spans San Luis Obispo Countymarker, most of Monterey Countymarker, eastern Santa Cruz Countymarker, portions of northwestern Santa Barbara County, and portions of southwestern Santa Clara Countymarker.

In March 2005, a San Luis Obispomarker weekly newspaper revealed that Maldonado had received $30,987 in gifts from an organization representing California's power industry. Those gifts included multiple trips to Australia, Africa and Europe. The story suggested that the gifts might have motivated Maldonado to object to a seismic safety bill that could potentially have threatened Diablo Canyon Power Plantmarker's license to operate. According to the story, Maldonado snapped at the reporter, "“I have never, ever, ever connected monetary resources with a bill or a special company in my area. For somebody to even suggest that is disappointing."

In February 2009, Maldonado was initially among the Republican senators rejecting a series of bills designed to close the $41 billion state budget deficit, but he later joined the Democrats in supporting the measures.

Candidacy for State Controller

In 2005, Maldonado declared his candidacy for the office of California State Controller after Controller Steve Westly decided to run for Governor. Maldonado was defeated in the June 6 2006 Republican primary by Tony Strickland.

Following his loss, Maldonado publicly criticized Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for not supporting his campaign more forcefully, suggesting that Schwarzenegger doesn't care about Hispanics, when he told the Los Angeles Times that "[w]hen [Schwarzenegger] needs Latinos, Latinos are always there for him. When Latinos need him, the answer's been no." Maldonado issued a public apology for the comment. Maldonado also maintains that he is no longer running for any further political offices. But as of December 10th he was heard talking about a run for governor or possibly the senate in 2010.

Nomination for Lieutenant Governor

On the November 23, 2009, episode of The Jay Leno Show, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he was nominating Maldonado as Lieutenant Governor. Schwarzenegger cited Maldonado's "bipartisanship and postpartisanship...He makes decisions based on what's best for the people rather than what's best for the party. He has helped us, many times, pass a budget, which was very important. And he comes from an immigrant family..."

Maldonado will need to be confirmed by a majority vote of the State Senate and a majority vote of the State Assembly within 90 days of the nomination in order to take office as Lieutenant Governor.

In a statement released by the Governor's office, Schwarzenegger called Maldonado a "true partner" and cited his willingness "to reach across the partisan divide" and "commitment to creating a transparent, accountable government" in California.

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