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Former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado confirms he’ll run for governor

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado speaks at a press conference Thursday at the Santa Maria branch jail on West Foster Road about his political plans.

Former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado confirmed Monday he will run for governor in 2014, with the local Republican saying among his top priorities will be fighting to repeal the state’s controversial Public Safety Realignment Act, aimed at reducing the state prison population by turning responsibility for some prisoners over to counties.

Aside from public safety, Maldonado said his campaign will focus on job creation and education.

“We can do better,” Maldonado said.

There had been much speculation about Maldonado taking a run at the governorship, and he has often repeated that he was seriously thinking about it but stopped short of confirming he would do so.

He said Monday he will formally announce his candidacy at a later date. He said that much of his time right now is devoted to his fledgling “Protect California Families” drive, which is attempting to gather enough signatures to get a measure on the November 2014 ballot to abolish the realignment law.

A spokesman from the governor’s office said there would be no comment. But Tenoch Flores, communications director for the California Democratic Party, accused Maldonado of attempting to tarnish Gov. Jerry Brown and AB109, as the law is also known, with the use of “scapegoating and fear mongering.”

Maldonado characterizes realignment as a danger to public safety that is overcrowding local jails. He said county jails are being forced to release inmates early as a result, driving up the crime rate.

He noted that four of the 10 defendants charged in the Anthony Ibarra torture and murder case were “AB109ers,” people who are released early from county jail to relieve overcrowding.

A flash point between Maldonado and critics is his choice of a poster boy for what he considers the failures of AB109. The case involves Jerome Anthony Rogers, who is accused of murdering a 76-year-old San Bernardino woman. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jeff Corless, a Maldonado spokesman, said the campaign picked the Rogers case because of the amount of time he was out on the streets. Rogers, who has a long criminal record, had been released from state prison in 2000 and finished parole three years later. Corless said he was suspected in the murder of the San Bernardino woman but that police lacked evidence to make an arrest.

 He was subsequently arrested for failing to register his address as a transient sex offender and served 13 days in county jail before being released.

He was later arrested in the earlier murder.

“Pre-AB109, he could have been sentenced to state prison 36 months” for not registering, Corless said.

 Post AB109, the jails were too crowded to keep him for long, he said.

Maldonado has also been accused of racist tactics for highlighting the Rogers case. During a news conference in Sacramento earlier this month, Maldonado used a huge mug shot of Rogers, who is black, as a backdrop — prompting some to claim Maldonado was using “Willie Horton”-style scare tactics to attack Brown and AB109.

But Maldonado, the son of immigrant Mexican-American farmworkers, has said those accusations are an attempt to steer the public’s attention away from the potential dangers of AB109. And Corless said that accusation indicates critics are missing the point.

“They’re so busy defending the criminals that they forget the victims,” he said.

Maldonado was appointed to the lieutenant governorship by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but lost an election bid for the post to Gavin Newsom in the 2010 Democratic landslide led by Brown. Maldonado, a native Santa Marian and former state senator, then challenged Lois Capps for the 24th Congressional seat last November and lost.

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