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.
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.
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.