Former California Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado is in the running to become the country’s next Agriculture secretary. The Associated Press reports that President-elect Trump met with Maldonado about the job today.
Maldonado, 49, has served in several posts during his political career. He began as the mayor of Santa Maria, in Santa Barbara County. From there he went on to the California Assembly and then the state Senate. In 2010, he was appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to lieutenant governor. But that November he was defeated by current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Maldonado now owns a vineyard in Santa Maria.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, USC professor of the practice of public policy communication, says Maldonado brings several attractive qualities to the table.
“It would give Donald Trump a Latino in his cabinet," she says. "It would give Donald Trump a moderate in his cabinet.”
Bebitch Jeffe says Maldonado could also be helpful to Trump in negotiations with California’s large congressional delegation. And she says the move could make sense for Maldonado, who has lost several elections in recent years and appears largely shut out of California politics at the moment.
California Farm Bureau Federation president Paul Wenger says Maldonado’s background gives him a good foundation for the job.
“Growing up on a family farm and his family still very involved in agriculture, he understands the challenges of weather, the challenges of regulation.," Wenger says.
Maldonado is also the son of immigrants, which Wenger says could be beneficial if the Trump administration takes on immigration reform. If he’s nominated and confirmed, Maldonado would be the only Latino so far to get a cabinet post.
Maldonado is the creator of California's top-two primary system. That allows the top vote-getters in a primary election to move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.