A month ago, I wrote an editorial saying California had no need for a lieutenant governor and urging the governor to leave the job vacant until next year’s election. He didn’t.  He picked state Sen. Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican from San Luis Obispo.

If you missed the headline, you weren’t alone.

But the politics now playing out may explain why so many Democrats favor gun control.

Because, on this one, they’re about to shoot themselves in the foot.

It’s appearing increasingly likely that legislative Democrats will refuse to confirm Maldonado, denying him the chance to run next year as an incumbent.

Here’s the rub: Maldonado delivered one of the three GOP votes needed for a two-thirds majority in February to pass the tax hikes backed by legislative Democrats and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor.  Some thanks.

Maldonado already is an outcast with large parts of his own party and might not even survive the Republican primary.

But a lot of Democrats were furious that Maldonado insisted that an open primary measure be placed on the ballot as his price for supporting the budget. (Plenty of Republicans were upset about that, too.) Combined with the independent redistricting commission already approved by voters, an open primary could go a long way toward breaking the stranglehold of the right fringe of the GOP and the left fringe of the Democratic Party on seats in the state Legislature.

Punishing Maldonado for that political sin is not only a slap at voters who want a more moderate Legislature, with an orientation toward problem-solving instead of partisan grandstanding, it’s also a message to any other minority party member who might consider compromising on tough issues.  The message is, “Don’t bother.”

— Jim Sweeney