Electing a governor and lieutenant governor as a ticket would provide greater consistency and be truer to the voice of voters when a governor leaves midterm, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Sept. 1.
In an interview with Cronkite News Service, Bennett said that having a secretary of state of a different party take over as governor, as happened this year, can be unsettling for voters who reasonably expect one party to hold power for four years.
“People are realizing that the No. 2 person in the state is not at all a part of the No. 1 person of the state,” he said.
Having a lieutenant governor who is in the same party and works closely with the governor would make for an easier transition when a governor leaves, Bennett said.
“It’s like when we vote for president and vice president,” he said. “If something happens to the president, you know who you’re getting.”
That system also would reduce the chance of a governor viewing a secretary of state who is in the other party as a potential political threat, Bennett said.
A secretary of state has taken over as Arizona governor four times in recent memory, and the governor’s office switched parties two of those times, including this year.
Arizona voters rejected a 1994 ballot initiative that would have created the office of lieutenant governor and had that person and the governor on the same ticket. A 2008 bill by Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, that would have changed the secretary of state’s title to lieutenant governor wasn’t taken up in committee.
As of 2008, 24 states elected a governor and lieutenant governor as a team, and 18 states elected a governor and lieutenant governor separately.
State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said Bennett’s suggestion is worth pursuing. She has advocated in the past for a governor and lieutenant governor who run as a team.
“If you have a lieutenant governor that’s on the same ticket and of the same party as the governor, then there will be better continuity in the governor’s office if the governor is replaced,” she said. “Most people have no clue that the secretary of state could become governor.”
Fred Solop, department chair of political science at Northern Arizona University, disagreed that voters may be unaware of the state’s succession laws.
“We’re unusual in how we do succession because most states have a lieutenant governor, but changing that is not a burning issue here,” he said. “Citizens are voting people into office and are comfortable with our process. Both offices were voted for, and the lines of succession are clear.”
While electing a lieutenant governor may give some Arizonans comfort in future successions, Solop said, it may also leave questions as to what the role of a lieutenant governor would be and how the position might be paid for.
Bennett said it would be possible to have a lieutenant governor without adding to the state’s expenses by reallocating job functions and salary from an existing position or giving a lieutenant governor duties currently performed by the secretary of state.
He expects there to be an effort to have voters take up the question of a lieutenant governor in 2010, especially after having the governor’s office switch parties this year.
“The more often that continues it reminds people that we need this position,” Bennett said.