Maldonado accused of milking San Bruno Fire

California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, left, listens as officials describe destruction following a gas explosion during a news conference in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. (AP)

September 14, 2010 8:04:55 PM PDT
Democrats are attacking Lieutenant Gov. Abel Maldonado for showing up at the San Bruno Fire scene. Maldonado is the acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of the country, but he is also running against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in November.

As acting governor, the fiery natural gas line explosion last Thursday pushed Maldonado into the spotlight. Maldonado was quick to get on CNN, making an appearance at 3 a.m. following the explosion.

Maldonado addressed reporters numerous times from the scene with updates.

The moderate Republican, who was appointed by Schwarzenegger, is down in the polls in the lieutenant governor's race but says it was not for political gain.

"I'm the lieutenant governor of California, today, I am the acting governor of California, and if there's an accident or a tragedy, you need to show up, it's doing your job," Maldonado said.

Newsom, who has more name recognition than Maldonado, declined to be interviewed for ABC7's story. But the Democratic Party accuses Maldonado of trying to score political points with voters.

"He surely doesn't do any harm, but he was probably listening to his campaign managers and said, 'Why don't you fly up there? This is a great photo op," California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said.

After things were under control in San Bruno, Maldonado publicly signed bills aimed at preventing pay scandals like the city of Bell. But he failed to file an appeal in the Prop 8 Case, which was due the same day.

The move angered same-sex marriage opponents, who are now fighting Prop 8 on their own.

"He's been nothing more than an opportunistic, typical politician," Karen England of the Capitol Resource Institute said. "He's exploiting the situation in San Bruno and what took place in Bell."

"When the governor left, we discussed what was going to happen in the state, Proposition 8 was not one of them," Maldonado said.

Schwarzenegger had already announced his administration would not appeal Prop 8.

Schwarzenegger is expected back from Asia Wednesday afternoon and will be going directly to San Bruno to see the devastation. One political analyst says that is just what politicians do -- they need to show people they care.