Opinion » Street Talk

Am I my senator’s keeper?

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Boy, am I glad I’m not Abel Maldonado right now. Every morning, I wake up and pick someone to be glad I’m not. Yesterday, it was Pismo councilman Bill Rabenaldt, who’s on badge probation for his wacky Fourth of July antics. The day before that it was Al Gore, because I just wouldn’t want all the attention he’s been getting for his doomsday prophesies lately. I’m a bit of a recluse. The day before that, it was Glen Starkey, but he’s my default if I can’t think of anyone else right away.
 
Anyway, this morning I woke up humming a tune at the sheer joy of not being the guy national outlets are calling “the Legislature’s top-ranking Latino Republican.�
 
Our boy with the big smile seems to have fallen on hard times lately. He probably has a big frown, too, but I haven’t seen it. Maybe now I will.
 
It all started with his race for state controller. Up to that point in his political life, he had the Midas touch—but in the good way, not the “I can’t eat anything now and I accidentally kill everyone I come into contact with by transforming them into a lump of precious metal� way. Every campaign he launched himself into was golden, landing him in whichever seat was next highest up in his rise to governorhood, or whatever lofty office he was hoping to occupy.
 
He kissed babies. He kissed Schwarzenegger. Then, he kissed his winning streak goodbye after the governor opted to not put in a good word for him in the controller election.
 
I’m as firm a believer as anyone in the fact that there’s not ever just one reason something goes wrong. That last sentence, for instance, had at least three things that made it hard to read. But even if there were more factors in Abel’s loss than the Terminator-sized one in the capitol, that hulking figure did contribute to the failure.
 
In the wake of the state controller title slipping out of Abel’s r»sum», the senator said some choice things about Arnold to the LA Times, including, “Our governor cares about one thing only, and that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.� The implication here, if you read between the lines, is that our governor doesn’t care about other things, which make up a very large category. Popcorn, for instance, is not Arnold Schwarzenegger, so, according to Abel, he doesn’t care about it. Jewish holidays aren’t Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nor are bow ties, angels, hair, shells, bow-tie pasta, angel-hair pasta, or shell pasta. Oh, and Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t a Latino, so he maybe—just maybe—doesn’t care about Latino issues so much.
 
Abel said that Arnold spent too little time in Mexico and basically questioned the governor’s loyalty to an entire people group.
 
Then, he apologized.
 
“The Governor and I have worked together for the past three years on important issues beneficial to California’s Latinos,� he said in a press release that came groveling on both knees. “I will continue to support the Governor in his efforts to strengthen California.�
 
Which is all nice and good. See how nice and good it is? And it nicely and goodly translates into political-speak as: “Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, don’t let this one time in which I really spoke my mind and said more than what I thought people wanted to hear hurt my chances at any future offices I might want to move into.�
 
The L.A. Times reported that Arnold’s office accepted the apology, but the paper was silent as to whether the two Republicans had moved past the frosty, not-speaking stage and were back to cuddling on the couch. I’ll bet Arnold’s the big spoon.
 
The L.A. Times—which, by the way, I’m looking into to see whether they stole their name from us—went on to report that some statewide Democrat spokesman named Roger Salazar went on record to say that Abel’s “original sentiments are more in line with where most California Latinos are.�
 
Strike two for the golden boy.
 
To top all this off like a big, racially motivated cherry, Abel’s longtime communications director Tom Kise announced that he was leaving the senate communications life and heading for greener pastures.
 
There may not be a correlation here, and Tom’s departure may just be what the cosmos likes to call a big, fat coincidence, but it sure looks like this losing streak popped up, prompting Tom to leave Abel faster than a writer at the Santa Barbara News Press.
 
To top that cherry off with another, bigger, fishier cherry, Tom announced that once he left Abel’s side, he was joining up with Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign. I could hear the slap from my office.
 
So, as far as I know, Abel’s still smiling—I think he can’t help it—but now he’s got a big red handprint on his cheek and a governor who forgave him but probably won’t forget the comments come next election cycle, and a constituency that’s not sure whether he believes what he says about Latinos or whether he can win the next race he tries for.
 
Personally, I’d like to see him shoot all the way to the top, mainly because I can say I’ve been poking at him since he was but a wee lad in political knee pants. But I have a feeling that even if that does happen, I’ll have more than a few more days when I wake up happy to be Shredder and not Abel. ∆

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