The search for one Republican vote necessary to approve a new budget for the State of California ended at 6:15 this morning. State Senator Abel Maldonado crossed party lines to vote with the Democrats in a deal that combines cuts in services, increases in taxation and borrowing to close a $40 billion deficit. The deal could also save Maldonado’s political career at the cost of eliminating 3rd party participation in general elections.
As part of the deal, Maldonado extracted an agreement to put two measures on the ballot for the voters of California in 2010. One is reasonable and the other is not. Salaries for members of the State Legislature are set by in independent commission. This year, even with the large deficit, they gave the legislators a salary increase. One of the two measures that Maldonado wanted would prevent legislators from getting a raise when the State budget has a deficit.
The other is much more of a personal gift disguised as a measure to open up elections. It would change the primary system in California to one that would select the top two candidates for office regardless of party. In the conservative Central Valley of California, this would generally deliver a general election between two Republicans. In San Franicisco, it is more likely to deliver one between two Democrats. It will, however, almost certainly ensure that no third party candidate will ever reach the general election. That single fact will deter the most qualified candidates from seeking to run as a Green or a Libertarian or anything other than as a representative of the duopoly.
Maldonado is a relatively moderate Republican, representing a carefully constructed district that stretches from the edge of Sililcon Valley all the way to the agricultural community of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. He has ambitionns to run for statewide office after his current term as State Senator is over in 2012. At that time, he would have served his limit of two terms in the State Senate.
After this vote, there is no way that Maldonado could be elected in a very partisan Republican primary. He would surely be opposed by the very right wing California Republican Assembly, which resembles the John Birch Society on policy. This deal provides the only way that Maldonado can achieve a statewide office where his being willing to compromise on the budget would appeal to independent voters.