Lieutenant Governor’s Race Gets No Respect

Rodney Dangerfield
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Education and the state's desperate need for cash will be the top two issues that will get voters to cast their ballots in the June primary, says Thad Kousser, UC San Diego political science professor. And it's winners of the senate and governor's race who will have the most impact on those two areas.  

But what about the lieutenant governor's race. It usually doesn't get much attention mainly because it doesn't hold much power unless the governor is unable to fulfill the duties of the office. 

And if you randomly ask any registered California voter about who's running in that race their eyes glaze over: "Gosh, I have no idea," "Oh my gosh, I don't remember, " or "Garamendi is running." Uh-no,  John Garamendi was California's lieutenant governor until he became a U.S. Congressman, a seat which he still holds.

But this time around there is some name recognition, at least in the Democratic race for the office.

There's San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  "He's famous and infamous," at the same time says Kousser.  He's attracted supporters and detractors for his stand on same sex marriage, his programs to help the homeless, his effort on universal health care for San Francisco residents. 

He further raised eyebrows when he admitted to having an affair with a campaign aide. He ran for governor briefly then pulled out of the race late last year to enter the race for lieutenant governor.

And then there's L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose fading family political dynasty may not be known much outside of Los Angeles, but then L.A. county has nearly a third of the state's registered Democrats.

But, Hahn "may give Newsom a run for his money" and be a "very serious and  viable candidate," says Ronnee Schreiber, professor of political science at San Diego State University. "She's a socially conservative democrat," and a lot of people will find that as a positive thing, she adds.  

As an observation, Hahn fits into the prototype of women seeking or holding political office these days. Schreiber who wrote a book on conservative women in American politics  says Hahn is older.  She's 58. Her children are grown and she is single. Some of the characteristics that fit  current high profile office holders like Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Since Newsom bailed on his bid for governor, Kousser says, the lieutenant governor's office is definitely a way for him to back his way into the top state office.

Both Hahn and Newsom claim they will definitely maintain a high public profile if either wins.

But  here's where they might really be able to make a difference other than face time for the cameras.  The job includes a seat on the UC Board of Regents so maybe they can do something about the sorry state of  higher public education. 

On Hahn's website she says she will fight tuition increases at California's universities and community colleges, and ensure every qualified student has the chance to earn a degree.

Newsom has been outspoken in his pledge to shore up the UC system and not tear it down. He has this posting on his blog: "Let me be clear: I favor fully funding the UC system. Cannibalizing our state's future through cuts to education is the exact opposite of the kind of reform and long-term thinking we need from our leaders in Sacramento. "

Although the lieutenant governor's office is not given much credit, Kousser says , Abel Maldonado, who is the current lieutenant governor, got a boost in name recognition when Governor Schwarzenegger nominated him on the Jay Leno show.  Maldonado is running on the Republican ticket for lieutenant governor.

Maldonado emphasizes on his campaign website that opposes fee hikes in higher education.

His Republican opponent in the primary is state Senator Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley.  Aanestad's spokesperson says he will ask for more accountability on the  UC Board of Regents, saying that he will question where funding for students is going, to have more accountability. He believes that the board is not reflective of the opinions of what real Californians are experiencing and that there needs to be more oversight of where the money is going.

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