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Central coast Republican looks to mobilize opposition against Abel Maldonado’s congressional run

With California’s top-two open primary system and redrawn congressional districts almost certain to play a major role in the 2012 election, San Luis Obispo financial planner Matt Kokkonen is on a mission to ensure that former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado is kept from winning the state’s 24th congressional district.

“If Abel is elected to Congress, we will be replacing Lois Capps with an Obama Republican…The Republican majority in the House will be subverted time and again by Abel as he votes to support Obama’s policies while sabotaging the conservative Republican agenda. Even a Republican president would be unable to count on Abel’s vote,” he said.

Kokkonen- the Republican Party’s 2008 candidate who challenged current Democratic incumbent Rep. Lois Capps in that election- has launched a campaign via an e-mail blast to over 80,000 in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. In it, he painted Maldonado as one who has betrayed his party on a host of issues, from taxes and Proposition 8, to illegal immigration and gun rights.

“Republicans and conservatives have a great opportunity to win this seat from Lois Capps in 2012, but that means we need to elect a Real Republican, not someone who will sabotage the efforts of the Republican House majority,” he wrote in an online pledge which he invited supporters to sign.

Maldonado defended himself as a “Reagan Republican” who works for the interests of his consitituents. He pointed to former members of President Ronald Reagan’s cabinent- Ed Meese, William Clark and George Shultz- who have endorsed him. The former state senator and lieutenant governor also said that Kokkonen “should spend his time working to grow the party, not to divide the party.”

One of the main forces behind California’s new top-two open primary system, Maldonado will himself have the chance to put it to the test by putting forth his own ideas in an effort to win the Republican nomination for 2012. At the moment, there are at least two other candidates- former actor-turned -businessman Christopher Mitchum and tech businessman Tom Watson- both of whom are also considered Tea Party favorites. Worth noting, the 24th district now includes more conservative districts, such as areas of the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo.

While Maldonado’s opponents are seeking to use his record of breaking with California Republican legislators on issues such as temporaily agreeing to raise state taxes among other issues, he’s still managed to maintain the support of party leaders at the national level. The former Lieutenant Governor is considered one of the “On the Radar” candidates in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program designed to help win races vital to supporting the party’s agenda.

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