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Schwarzenegger faces complex equation in nominating next lieutenant governor

November 4, 2009 |  9:58 am
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a plum political post to dole out after Lt. Gov. John Garamendi’s election to Congress on Tuesday vacates 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.

Speculation is rife that Schwarzenegger will choose a like-minded political moderate. One possibility is Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), who regularly crosses party lines. He would vacate a legislative seat that Democrats could try to pick up.

Working against him: He’d probably run for reelection to the post as an incumbent, a perch the majority Democrats seem unlikely to concede.

Democrats would prefer a caretaker appointed until the 2010 elections -- or perhaps no one at all.

Other names bandied about: former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat; former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican; Assemblyman Mike Villines (R-Clovis); and the governor’s former budget director Tom Campbell, a Republican now running for governor.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento