Nava: Schwarzenegger should wait to fill Lt. Gov. post

Chris Rizo Nov. 23, 2009, 1:10am

Pedro Nava (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should not immediately appoint someone to fill the recent vacancy left when Lt. Gov. John Garamendi was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a candidate for state attorney general said Monday.

State Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara outlined his opposition to the Republican governor quickly naming the successor to Garamendi, a Democrat, noting that the state's No. 2 executive plays in an important role in policy as president of the Senate, a regent of the University of California system, a trustee of the California State University system and as a member of the State Lands Commission, among other powerful panels.

"I firmly believe that the governor should be careful and thoughtful about this appointment. This decision should not be rushed, as some have suggested. It should not be political. In fact, it should not be now," Nava, a Democrat, wrote in a column published on The Huffington Post.

Whomever Schwarzenegger decides to appoint to the post will have to be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature. The California lieutenant governor is paid an annual salary of $159,134.

Nava noted that if a sitting member of the state Legislature were appointed to the post, the cost to local jurisdictions to hold a special election for a replacement could be between $1.5 million and $3 million. He said if the governor were to appoint a sitting statewide constitutional officer to the post, the cost to the state to fill the vacated post could be upwards of $100 million.

"Now is clearly not the time for politically-motivated appointments -- especially those that will yield added costs through a domino of special elections," Nava wrote, citing the Golden State's yawning budget gap, estimated to reach $21 billion over the next year and a half.

Nava suggested that the governor delay an appointment until shortly before one of the state's next regularly-scheduled elections -- in either June or November of 2010 -- to avoid unnecessary expense.

"Not only would this save the cost of the likely special election that would be needed, it could save California between $500,000 and $1 million in costs to operate the Office of the Lieutenant Governor," he wrote.

He added, "The governor should use this opportunity to set an important example and show that every dollar counts."

Garamendi, a former state insurance commissioner, was elected to Congress this month to replace Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat who resigned to take a senior post in the U.S. State Department.

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