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Arizonans May Get To Vote For Lieutenant Governor

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By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizonans may get to decide if they want to elect the state's chief executive the same way they elect the president: with a built-in replacement.

HCR 2020 would set up a system where each party's gubernatorial candidate would choose a running mate. The pair would run as a ticket and, if elected, the running mate would become the lieutenant governor.
The measure gained preliminary House approval on Wednesday. But it still needs a final roll-call vote and Senate OK before being placed on the November ballots where voters would get the final say.
Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, said the biggest effect would be to scrap the system where the death, recall, resignation or impeachment conviction of a governor elevates the secretary of state to the chief executive.
What makes that troubling for some is that the secretary of state is separately elected. More significant, that person may not be from the same party.
It's happened before.
The 1988 impeachment and conviction of Republican Evan Mecham elevated Secretary of State Rose Mofford, a Democrat, to the top spot.
It's also worked the other way, with Republican Jan Brewer replacing Democrat Janet Napolitano after she quit in 2009 to take a job in the Obama administration.
Voters rejected the idea in 1994 and again in 2010.
But some of the opposition to prior efforts stemmed from the idea of simply creating another taxpayer-funded position for someone whose only official job would be to step in if necessary.
By contrast, Nutt's proposal spells out that the lieutenant governor also would serve as director of the state Department of Administration.
The measure has bipartisan support.
Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, said when people elect someone as governor they also are voting for that person's political vision.
"It would benefit the state to have political alignment and, of course, vision alignment for someone who would take over as the chief executive of the state if the governor were to, for some reason, have to vacate that office,'' he said. Friese said it also means that voters effectively get a chance to ratify who would become governor if the top position became vacant.
Friese noted, however, that there is a loophole of sorts.
As crafted, the measure says if the lieutenant governor resigns or otherwise leaves office, it is up to the governor to name a replacement, subject only to Senate confirmation. And that could mean that someone whose name never has been on the ballot -- and has never stood for election -- actually could end up as governor.
Friese, however, said that's likely to be a rare occurrence, and not one that provides a reason for him to oppose the plan.
But Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, said the problem from her perspective goes beyond that. She said this appointed lieutenant governor, once elevated to governor, then gets to appoint the next lieutenant governor.
`That takes the voice of the people too far out of the governor's race in my opinion,'' Powers Hannley said. "I think we should keep the system the way it is.''
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said Nutt's proposal leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
For example, he questioned what would happen if the governor, after election, decided that his or her running mate is really not fit to run the Department of Administration. That is the state agency in charge of everything from personnel matters to ensuring that buildings are maintained.
Nutt acknowledged that is not specifically addressed.
He also wanted to know how it would affect campaign finance laws.
Current law limits the amount of money that individuals can contribute to candidates. Bolding questioned whether that limit would apply to the gubernatorial ticket as a whole or whether donors could give the maximum to the person running for governor and the same amount separately to the lieutenant governor contender.
"That is something that has not been addressed in this,'' Nutt said.
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On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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