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Saturday, Feb 23 2013 10:33 PM

ROBERT PRICE: Rubio will be spending some quality time with Chevron

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Former state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, is blamed for leaving his party flat-footed twice, weakening its grip on power: When he dropped out of the 21st Congressional District race in 2012 for family reasons and when he resigned from the Senate mid-term, in 2013, to take a job with Chevron. Here he is in a 2011 photo.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

Excuse my cynicism, but I have yet to meet a politician whose abrupt resignation to "spend more time with my family" has had much to do with spending more time with his family.

Experience tells me that if we haven't already heard about those tweeted photos of the senator's private parts, or his illicit affair with a young intern, or his misappropriation of campaign funds, we soon will.

So this would be a first. But then this is Michael Rubio, who until now has never given us any reason to believe he is anything but a clean-cut, duty-bound public servant. People don't even whisper behind his back.

Maybe the Shafter Democrat, who on Friday resigned from the California State Senate halfway through his first term, really just wants to watch his daughter's soccer games. And this opportunity to work as a lobbyist for Chevron Corp. -- er, as a government affairs specialist in the company's Sacramento office -- provided a timely escape hatch.

It's not unreasonable to believe that Rubio wanted the financial security, seminormal hours and ratcheted-down pressure of a private citizen. It's not the first time he has chosen family over career: Two years ago, he stepped away from a widely anticipated run at the newly apportioned, vacant 21st Congressional District seat. He would have been the favorite, too, owing to the district's heavy Democratic registration advantage. But he opted to stay in the southern valley, closer to his wife and two daughters, one of whom was born with Down syndrome. It was a decision that the eventual winner, Republican David Valadao, no doubt heartily endorsed.

The cynics in the room saw that decision, heartfelt as it might have been, as a good political investment: Dedicated family man relinquishes all-but-assured seat in Congress and embraces his paternal responsibilities! How refreshing! Well, shame on you, cynics. Rubio's resignation casts his scaled-back plans of two years ago in a fresh light. Maybe family really does come first.

In Sacramento and elsewhere, they're rolling their eyes at those guileless conclusions. Rubio, as chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, pushed legislation that benefits companies such as Chevron -- his efforts to rewrite the California Environmental Quality Act being the foremost example. And then he took a job with them. If that doesn't smell funny to you, open the window.

"The concern is that legislators may change their behavior while in office to pave the way toward their personal future employment opportunities instead of thinking solely about the needs of their constituents," Common Cause's Derek Cressman told the Los Angeles Times. The state's Fair Political Practices Commission is reviewing Rubio's move, citing a rule that bans legislators from talking about jobs with corporations that do business with the state unless they recuse themselves from taking action on issues affecting said businesses. Rubio says he violated no rules, but, if that's so, the Chevron opportunity must have come very recently and quite unexpectedly.

Rubio's departure will be devastating to local Democrats, who saw him as the party's leading voice. Now there's a void at the top. That is, unless you consider Assemblyman Rudy Salas -- on the job for all of about six weeks -- the man to carry the flag.

Rubio's departure from the 16th District seat means Gov. Jerry Brown will call for a special election in the next few months. Salas knows something about that, having stirred up a Republican hornet's nest -- well, Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, anyway -- by resigning from the City Council two years into his first term to take his seat in the Assembly. Sullivan wants Salas to pay the $100,000 cost of the special election. What's next? Will Sullivan demand that Rubio compensate Bakersfield taxpayers, who comprise 24 percent of the 16th District, for 24 percent of the cost of his special election? And is it too early for Salas to throw his hat in the ring? This cynic stuff can really keep a guy busy.

Email Editorial Page Editor Robert Price at rprice@ bakersfield.com.

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