DeWit to stay treasurer as U.S. Senate confirmation unfolds

Rachel Leingang//November 30, 2017

DeWit to stay treasurer as U.S. Senate confirmation unfolds

Rachel Leingang//November 30, 2017

Jeff DeWit

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit ended speculation about a potential U.S. Senate run by accepting a job with the Trump administration in Washington, D.C.

As first reported by the Arizona Republic, the White House announced DeWit’s nomination to be chief financial officer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  

The job requires Senate confirmation. DeWit told the Capitol Times he expects the process to take three to six months, and he won’t be stepping down as treasurer until he’s confirmed.

“In fact, they tell you not to because confirmations don’t always work out,” DeWit said, adding that he doesn’t expect any problems with confirmation.

The official announcement of the long-rumored D.C. job gives Republican Gov. Doug Ducey another appointment for a statewide office.

And it leaves DeWit out of the running for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat in the U.S. Senate, which many speculated the treasurer was eying because of his ties to Trump. DeWit served as the chief operating officer of Trump’s campaign and regularly appeared with the president on stage during Arizona visits.

Dewit said he was offered other roles from the Trump administration previously, but the NASA gig seems to be the best fit. Because he was nearing the end of his term as treasurer and didn’t intend to run again, he had begun thinking of what to do next, though he wasn’t seeking the NASA job.

“The president called me and asked me to do this. And I like it. I love NASA. As a lot of little boys, I grew up liking rockets and planes and everything else,” he said.

Two Republicans are vying for the treasurer position in 2018. Tom Forese, the chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Kim Yee, a state senator, have both announced their runs.

Forese told the Capitol Times he would not seek the treasurer appointment from Ducey, though he wouldn’t speculate on whether he would take the job if asked.

And state law says Yee cannot be appointed until her term in the Senate is over.

Ducey and DeWit have butted heads, particularly over Proposition 123, a ballot measure that settled a K-12 education funding lawsuit by using money from the sales of state trust lands. Ducey pushed strongly for the proposition, but DeWit opposed it.

Despite the clash, Ducey told reporters today that he and DeWit have a “positive relationship,” and Ducey said he would be helpful and supportive of the NASA nomination process however he can.

But he said the confirmation

process can sometimes drag on, and while DeWit is still in the treasurer’s office, Ducey said he intends to keep working with him.

The governor said he doesn’t currently have anyone in mind to replace DeWit.

“We haven’t really put any thought into it at all. I heard the announcement yesterday at the same time you did. This morning we discussed what the process is for transition,” Ducey said, adding that any appointee to the position would need to be a “good steward of our financial dollars.”

DeWit said he hopes to work with Ducey to find someone to replace him that’s acceptable to both of them. And he favors choosing someone from the treasurer’s office, who understands the mechanics of the role, to serve as a placeholder until the 2018 election.

“I think the election should play out without having a thumb on the scale,” he said.

Chuck Coughlin, a Republican political consultant, said there shouldn’t be any objection to DeWit staying on as treasurer through the confirmation process, if not longer. And Coughlin speculated DeWit may not be eager to hand Ducey an appointment, given their history.

Ducey could possibly tap someone in the treasurer’s office who has experience to fill out the short remainder of DeWit’s term, Coughlin said.

“Obviously it would be have be someone that’s mutually agreed upon,” Coughlin said.