Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
May 10, 2013

One day after a civil rights leader accused him of using racially charged politics in his criticism of California’s prison realignment, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado said this afternoon that Gov. Jerry Brown and “his buddies are trying to make it about race.”

Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Brown in next year’s gubernatorial election, told The Bee he will “probably” stop using the image of a felon to which a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People objected, but that he will continue to cite the case.

Maldonado came under criticism after a news conference Wednesday at which he highlighted a photograph of an offender who was not released from prison under realignment — the program Maldonado organized the event to criticize. Maldonado announced he will file a ballot initiative to repeal the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the prison and parole system to counties.

Alice Huffman, president of the California state conference of the NAACP, said in a letter to Maldonado on Thursday that his use of Jerome Anthony Rogers’ photograph appears to be a “despicable attempt to drag the Willie Horton-style racial politics of the past into California.”

In a telephone interview, Maldonado said, “I would venture to say that probably Gov. Brown asked her to write the letter so that we can change the conversation … This is not about race. This is about violent criminals on our streets. That’s what this is about, and Gov. Brown and his buddies are trying to make it about race. They’re trying to change the conversation.”

When asked if he had any reason to believe that Brown was involved in Huffman’s accusation, Maldonado, said, “No, I’m telling you how I feel.”

Later, Maldonado said, “You know what? Maybe he didn’t ask. But I can tell you this, with all due respect, Alice is wrong about what she wrote to me.”

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