Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado announces that he is dropping out of the California governor race as his family listens at Santa Maria City Hall Thursday.

Paul Wellman

Former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado announced Thursday from the steps of Santa Maria City Hall that he’s withdrawing from the governor’s race to focus on being “a full-time dad and husband.” Maldonado’s campaign to unseat Governor Jerry Brown this November struggled to gain traction from the start, and his decision to bow out came before he officially threw his hat into the ring despite recent months of stumping up and down California.

“It’s time to step away for a while and spend more time with my family and stay a little closer to home, helping my community as an active private citizen,” Maldonado said Thursday. “This by no means suggests that I am giving up or giving in. I love my country, and I love my state. But it’s just time for me to take a break.”

In speeches, press releases, and social-media posts over the last eight months, Maldonado had criticized Brown’s new prison-realignment policy (AB 109), arguing it was leading to the early release of violent felons who were endangering an unsuspecting public. He unveiled a proposed ballot measure to reverse the law and made an accused murderer his poster boy for reform. It would turn out, however, that the suspect and his release from prison had nothing to do with AB 109 and that he had completed his parole eight years before the policy went into effect. Maldonado also struggled on the fundraising front, and one of his top advisers recently exited the campaign under unclear circumstances.

Maldonado began his political career in his hometown of Santa Maria, serving on its city council and eventually becoming its mayor. He was elected to the State Senate in 2004, lost a race for state controller in 2006, and was appointed California’s lieutenant governor by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. He then made a run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 but lost to incumbent Lois Capps. Assemblymember Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks remains in this year’s gubernatorial race, and former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary Neel Kashkari is expected to announce his candidacy.

“Almost a year ago, I began this journey of meeting Californians and sharing a renewed vision of California,” Maldonado said Thursday in statements posted to his website. “And for most of the last year, I have campaigned aggressively for governor of California up and down and all over this great state. I have heard from those who work two jobs and are still behind on their bills every month and still many others who can’t find any work at all. Too many of our schools are failing our children and many more are underfunded. Our streets are filling daily with criminals released early, and instead of serving the time they should have, they are causing new crimes. For too many, the California dream has become a California nightmare.

“Believe me: I have heard it every day. I know I have the qualifications to be governor, and I strongly believe I can turn California around if elected governor. I have the experience and the temperament. I have served at the local level and state level in both the legislative and executive branches of government. And I know today California can do better. But after having traveled all over the state and giving it my all, I have concluded that now is not my time.”


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