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Abel Maldonado

Abel Maldonado’s like that piece of gum you just can’t get off your shoe no matter what you do. It seems like he was just running for governor or stepping down from something and here he is again, under consideration to be U.S. secretary of agriculture.

He was interviewed by Donald Trump on Wednesday and is said to be among the front-runners. And to that, we say good for him. All things considered, there are worse possibilities. In fact, if not for some of his associations among the GOP establishment in Monterey County, we could almost see our way to seconding the notion. He does have a farming background and, unlike a number of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, there is no reason to think he would be out to destroy the agency or its subject, in this case agriculture. He would not be Trump’s worst pick.

It’s not that the Partisan has become a Maldonado fan. We’ve always considered him to be an opportunist, always looking for his next office without stopping to accomplish anything along the way. Partly on the strength of being a rare Republican Latino, he’s been a city councilman, a state senator, even a lieutenant governor. He’s in no position to say government is all bad even though he doesn’t have a lot to show for his efforts. He has crossed party lines on occasion, which is a good thing, but he acts as though that makes him a hero. Our standards are higher.

But he does have that farming background. His family grows a variety of crops near Santa Maria and, while he doesn’t have many calluses to show for it, he apparently has done actual work on the farm.

Our biggest problem with Maldonado are the kinds of campaigns he runs and the kind of people he has had running them.

Regular readers of the Partisan might remember that we have written about Brandon Gesicki and Paul Bruno in the past, not always favorably. They have played key roles in Maldonado campaigns and they haven’t always played fair.

Brandon Gesicki

It was Bruno a decade or so ago who posed as a Green Party official to approach a party member and encourage him to enter a state Senate race featuring Maldonado and Democratic candidate Peg Pinard. The idea was to draw votes away from Pinard. It was alleged that Bruno offered help with filing fees or somesuch but he denied it. He denies everything.

Bruno has been the Monterey County GOP secretary and spokesman, budget chairman for the state GOP, and Maldonado’s treasurer. Whenever the state finds problems with the accounting under his watch,  he invariably blames clerical errors.

Paul Bruno being told, no thanks, we’ll handle the protesters without you and your chains

Our  Maldonado campaign trick was the work of Gesicki. While his buddy Maldonado was running for Congress as a Republican, Gesicki advised him to run as a Democrat as well in order to help prevent a Democrat from making it onto the general election ballot. It was kind of a smart move, but Gesicki’s explanation wasn’t smart. In fact, it presumed that the rest of us are stupid. He insisted that Maldonado had put his name on the Democratic ballot only because his mother, a Democrat, had never been able to vote for her boy in a primary election. General elections, sure, she got to vote for him then, but apparently there is just something about a primary election to get that maternal pride flowing.

Gesicki is probably best known locally for running Steve Bernal’s successful campaign for sheriff. It was a typical Gesicki campaign in that it featured all sorts of dirty tricks and distortions. It was atypical in that his candidate won.

During that campaign, Gesicki told one important endorsing organization that Bernal’s opponent, then-Sheriff Scott Miller, was about to be charged with a crime and that the group would look bad if it had endorsed him. It was pure fiction but it worked.

Maldonado isn’t a lock for the job but he does have something else going him besides the muddy boots. When he became California’s lieutenant governor, it was at the invitation of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, as everyone knows by now, will be Trump’s stand-in on Celebrity Apprentice while Trump is learning the ropes of the precedency.

Bruno, meanwhile, when he isn’t busy watching the GOP’s ranks dwindle in Monterey County and the rest of California, runs Monterey Peninsula Engineering, which is making a fortune putting in pipelines for Cal Am.

He spends a lot of time on Facebook, posting pictures of Hillary Clinton in a jail jumpsuit and President Obama running from elephants. There are sore losers and then there are sore winners. Yes, he’s the guy the CHP stopped from going out onto Highway 1 with chains and a plan to drag protesters away.

Bruno once told the Monterey County Weekly that government “should act more like the mafia.” Maybe Maldonado will need an assistant and he can show us what he means.

This story initially reported that Bruno had been treasurer of the Monterey County GOP and the state GOP. It has been updated to contain the correct titles.

GOP campaign manager Brandon Gesicki

Brandon Gesicki

Four years ago, campaign manager Brandon Gesicki ran for political office himself, taking a shot at a seat on the Cypress Fire Protection District board of directors. As usual when Gesicki’s involved in a campaign, it was an exceedingly disputatious affair and, when it was over, he had not won.

Now, he’s going for a board seat again and is breaking with Gesicki tradition. This time there will be no name-calling or backbiting. This time, he will prevail. That’s because this time, there are only three seats open in the district, which operates the Rio Road and Carmel Hill fire stations, and only three candidates.

There is a twist, however. One of the other three candidates is Andrea Borchard, Gesicki’s longtime girlfriend and his sometimes partner in the business of running campaigns and creating non-existent political organizations for the purposes of producing misleading campaign mailers and hit pieces. For details, contact the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The good news is that with no opposition, Gesicki shouldn’t need to dish out any dirt, but old habits die hard. When he filed his candidacy papers with the elections office, he described himself as a “small business owner.” That he is. It would have been more accurate, however, if he had put down “campaign manager” or “political consultant,” for that is what he does.


Andrea Borchard

Borchard listed herself as a marketing consultant. She has also been a member of the Monterey County GOP Central Committee and a member of the county fair board, an Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee.

Gesicki says there’s nothing up their sleeves, that they’re running for the best of reasons.

“We are both looking forward to giving back in the form of public service to the area we have lived in most of our lives,” he said Thursday. “Our top priorities are making sure Carmel has first class fire and ambulance services.”

When Gesicki ran for a Cypress seat four years ago, charges and counter-charges flew, most of them involving statements or misstatements from Gesicki. There was something about him graduating from college and his declaration that the district was considering cutting back on its ambulance service though it doesn’t provide ambulance service.

More of you will remember Gesicki from last year’s Monterey County sheriff’s race, in which he used every trick in the playbook to help Deputy Steve Bernal unseat Sheriff Scott Miller. He’s the one who told one group that it shouldn’t endorse the incumbent because he was about to be indicted for a sex crime. There was no truth to the assertion but it worked. The group chose not to endorse.

Gesicki’s the guy who keeps running campaigns for Abel Maldonado, who was briefly lieutenant governor. It was Gesicki who cooked up the idea to have Republican Maldonado run in both a GOP and Democratic primary and then insisted it wasn’t a strategy. He maintained that Maldonado’s mother was a Democrat and therefore had never had the chance to vote for her son in a primary election. Really. That’s what he said.

We could go on and on about Gesicki’s history, but you get the idea.

Good luck, Brandon. Good luck, Andrea. Good luck, Cypress.