Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who helped pioneer the state’s online signature-gathering system for political candidates, has started using the system for his potential gubernatorial race two years away.
Bennett, a former Senate president, has an exploratory committee for governor, which means he can legally collect money and gather signatures to measure the viability of a gubernatorial run.
“Yeah, I guess, you know, this puts me one step closer,” Bennett said today of his online signature-gathering efforts.
Bennett, a Republican, said he also has been raising money.
In order to participate in the Secretary of State’s electronic signature-gathering system, which is called E-Qual, candidates have to actively open a nominating petition.
It’s not automatic for candidates who have filed the paperwork to run or explore campaigning for an office.
Bennett said he created his E-Qual nominating petition at least a month ago.
He said he hasn’t been heavily promoting it, and only has a few hundred signatures.
“But it’s starting to grow,” he said.
About 130 candidates are participating in E-Qual, which will stop accepting signatures by midnight of this Friday. That would allow candidates to print out their nominating forms and officially submit them to the Secretary of State’s office.
Of the candidates, only Bennett and John Huppenthal, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, are collecting signatures for the 2014 elections. Huppenthal is gathering signatures for his current position.
The rest of the candidates are all running for the Legislature or for the Corporation Commission this year.
Bennett opened an exploratory committee last year, the first public signal he is seriously considering seeking the Republican nomination for the seat.
In an interview last year, Bennett said people regularly asked him about his political ambitions.
“We just wanted to get it on the record that we’re exploring the idea. Now, when people ask us about it, I can say that I am looking at it,” he said.
E-Qual is a pilot program that expires Dec. 31, 2014. The system, touted as the first of its kind in the nation, was developed by the Secretary of State’s Office, and allows candidates to collect half of their qualifying signatures through the technology.
Other prominent Republicans discussed as possible 2014 gubernatorial candidates include State Treasurer Doug Ducey, Attorney General Tom Horne and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.