| While I was at Camp Courage in Fresno all weekend (much more on that transformative event later today) I missed out on some of the stories happening in state politics, including this gem from Willie Brown's Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle where he explains one reason for Maldonado's pursuit of an open primary:
State Sen. Abel Maldonado, the deciding vote in the big state budget morass, came to see me last week with a very interesting story about his fellow Republicans.
I was telling him what a good name he has, because no one can figure out if it is Spanish, Italian or Portuguese.
He proceeded to tell me that when he was running for state controller in 2006, he commissioned a poll to gauge the feelings of Republican voters in Orange County.
The poll came back showing him losing to the Democrat by almost 2-1.
"This is impossible," Maldonado said. "Orange County is loaded with Republicans."
They did the poll again and the results were the same - the Democrat won.
So Maldonado ran a little test. He had the pollster go back and give voters the same information as before - his age, that he's a rancher and the like - but this time, he said, tell them the candidate's name is Smith.
The result: Smith came out ahead.
So he ran another poll, a Republican named Garcia vs. a Democrat named Smith.
Smith won again, even among Republicans.
At that point, Maldonado said, "We're not spending another nickel - there ain't no way that anyone with a Spanish name is going to win anything in a Republican primary in this state."
He was right, in his case at least - he lost the primary to Tony Strickland.
I wish I could say I'm surprised by this, but of course I'm not. As someone with deep familiarity with Orange County Republicans this story rings all too true to my experiences. They just don't like Latinos. For many OC Republicans, their anti-immigrant sentiment is thinly veiled racism. In public it may be about "the law" but at block parties or conversations with neighbors at the mailbox or even the dinner table, it's really about fear of a brown planet.
"Did you hear that some Mexicans bought a place on the next street over?" "Yeah, there go our property values." [I've heard variations on this conversation several times in the last 20 years in Tustin.] "Do you remember when Santa Ana was full of English speakers?" "Yeah, now it's full of Spanish billboards. It's like Tijuana!" [Another frequently overheard conversation, one that neatly ignores the continuous presence of Spanish-speakers in that city dating to at least the 1860s.]
Racism against Spanish speakers and those with Spanish-sounding surnames in Orange County remains endemic. And so it's quite understandable that Maldonado would discover these kind of poll results.
Of course it's worth noting that "Orange County" is a diverse place and that there are large swaths of the county where this hasn't been a problem, as Loretta Sanchez can attest (though her 1996 and 1998 campaigns against Bob Dornan unfortunately brought out a lot of racism and attacks on her Mexican last name, with the irony here being that Dornan told me at the time she merely used her maiden name "Sanchez" instead of "Brixey", her then-married name, to win votes!).
Still, this is indicative of the problems that Maldonado has as a slightly less conservative Latino Republican in a state where conditions of membership in the Zombie Death Cult appear to still include not having Latino heritage.
Not to mention the obvious point that this is further evidence that Maldonado was merely seeking personal gain through the budget standoff and is further evidence of why the 2/3rds rule must go...