What State Senator Abel Maldonado termed “a sneaky attempt to derail the open primary” failed in a Sacramento courtroom last week. Maldonado, a Republican moderate who represents Santa Maria, had secured a commitment from both Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic majority in the legislature to place the open primary on a statewide ballot this June. Maldonado had demanded the commitments in exchange for his tie-breaking vote on the state budget.
Both parties oppose the open primary because it allows voters to cross party lines in primary contests, but Democrats—who control a majority in both houses—especially so. The California School Employees Association filed a lawsuit challenging the wording of Maldonado’s open primary initiative, Proposition 14. The union attempted to replace the word “reform” with “change,” and to introduce new language indicating the measure could cost taxpayers up to $20 million. Political strategists on both sides agreed that Prop 14 would rise or fall based on this language. A Sacramento county judge not only rejected the changes sought by the school employees union, but inserted language of his own stating that Prop 14 “gives voters increased options” and “encourages increased participation.” These changes are seen as beneficial to Prop 14.
Despite this success, Maldonado, running for lieutenant governor, remains something of a political pariah to both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats successfully blocked Maldonado’s appointment to the post by Schwarzenegger; and at the recent Republican convention, Maldonado’s pleas for a more immigrant-tolerant attitude largely fell on deaf ears, as candidates for various posts blamed California’s immigrant population for a host of social and economic ills.