Thursday, May 24, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on September 18th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 28

From the depths to the heights and in between

The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle read: “Rift puts Maldonado campaign in even bigger hole.”

It’s not a flattering image. Just picture the former lieutenant governor sitting, forlorn, at the bottom of a pit. Maybe there’s some gravel tumbling down the edges as they widen. He’s looking up with those big, brown eyes of his, and he’s sad as pebbles and dirt and grit bounce off his nicely tailored suit and leave little puffs of dust. Then the camera pans back, and we see the sun rising over the state capitol as  … oh, sorry. My cinematic imagination is running away from me again.

Hollywood-level scene or not, nobody wants his or her name attached to the word “hole.” I can think of more than a few unflattering directions to go with this descriptor. I’m sure you can, too. I can’t, however, think of many positives. Maybe a foxhole? Nah, then you’d be on defense in a war. A doughnut hole? OK, yeah. There’s one in the plus column. Doughnut holes are sweet and beloved and … and … absolutely not something anyone would ever think of when reading that headline.

The Maldonado I’m discussing, of course, is Abel Maldonado—but you knew that already, because you recognized the last name and my mention of his being a former lieutenant governor. You also know that I write about him from time to time, mostly because I’ve wondered over the years how someone can go from being a beloved hometown success story sharing hugs with Republican juggernaut—or is it juggernaut Republican?—Arnold Schwarzenegger to being a gubernatorial hopeful drawing headlines like, well, you know.

Headlines that put you in a hole.

Maldonado has had a lot of successes in his life. He was mayor of Santa Maria before he was 30 years old! But he’s had a lot of setbacks, too. Most tellingly—or recently?—he failed to beat Gavin Newsom for the lieutenant governorship despite being the incumbent, albeit an incumbent appointed by the aforementioned Schwarzenegger.

When you aim that high, of course you’re going to get scrutinized. You’re going to get dissected by analysts, lauded—but more likely excoriated—by political columnists, and picked apart by critics of all stripes. It can’t be easy.

I was originally going to write this column about the story below the headline in question, which was full of reports of staffers leaving his campaign—whether they wanted to abandon what they saw as a sinking ship or he wanted to cut costly advisers who weren’t delivering what he wanted when he wanted it is unclear—and questions about the state of his war chest.

The story also included a Democratic consultant referring to the Maldonado campaign as a corpse, which is even less flattering than being in a hole … though, come to think of it, that continued metaphor would make the hole a grave—but I’ve looked at Abel’s troubled up-and-down political career before.

Also, since, as far as I know, current governor Jerry Brown hasn’t officially said he’s running again—even though he apparently has enough money to outright buy the seat if it were for sale—who’s in the best position these days to step up come election time?

I’m not hearing names besides Abel’s when it comes to the governor’s office—even if Abel’s name is paired with comments about his being in a hole. Which is different from being an a-hole. Just to clarify.

I certainly would never want to hold a top governmental office—or a governmental office of any kind, for that matter—but I’m sure glad there are people who do. These are the people who get reduced to budget bottom lines, sound bites, and text bits chosen by journalists like me (a scary realization), and their mistakes. Campaign trail gaffes stick to those who commit them like chewing gum made of super glue. What do you remember about Howard Dean besides that crazy yell from 2006? A quick Google search pairs “scream” with his name, followed shortly thereafter by “death panels.”

Abel fares far better when it comes to online searches, though recent headlines aside from the San Francisco Chronicle include “Abel Maldonado in debt while Jerry Brown tops $10 M” and “Abel Maldonado’s campaign was basically broke at midyear.”


I’m not saying that Abel is hands down the best candidate. But I am saying that I’d like to hear more about a candidate’s ideas and beliefs. Advisers coming and going is peripheral. So is money, really.

Yes, money issues and adviser troubles are news, but they aren’t the only news. Don’t forget to check out the details in Abel’s fight against the early release of criminals. Or his goals to protect Proposition 13.

You may agree. You may disagree. You may want to vote for him. You may want to vote for Jerry—assuming he runs. You may want to move to Idaho. But at least you won’t be in a hole of your own.


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