A measure on the November ballot could keep minor party candidates from ever becoming governor.
Proposition 111, if approved by voters, renames the position of secretary of state to lieutenant governor. What duties remain with the office would be decided by the Legislature.
But the measure also would amend the Arizona Constitution to say that each party's nominee for governor and lieutenant governor, while running in their own primaries, would then run for election as a ticket.
Deb Gullett, a member of the O'Connor House Project, a group of civic and community leaders which proposed the change, said the idea is to ensure that if a governor quits, dies or is thrown from office, his or her successor would be of the same party. Governors have not completed their terms six times in state history, five in the last 35 years.
The measure, though, has no provision for what happens to the gubernatorial candidate if no one from that person's party wants to run for lieutenant governor. And that could leave a legitimately nominated minor party candidate for governor legally unable to seek votes in November.
Gullett acknowledged the gap. She said the solution is that minor parties will simply have to ensure they find someone to run for each of the top two offices.
Barry Hess, this year's Libertarian Party candidate for governor, said that's no solution at all.
"If we don't have a candidate there, that would squash any attempt to go for the other office," he said, whether voiding the efforts of the gubernatorial or lieutenant governor contender seeking election without a running mate.
That is more than an academic question: While Hess beat out four other contenders in the Libertarian Party primary for governor, not a single party member is running for what is still the secretary of state's post.
"We do not support it," Hess said.
But former state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who proposed the original measure - albeit only to change the name of the office - said he supports the expanded version requiring candidates to run as a ticket. And the Tucson Republican was unsympathetic to the possibility that a minor party might find its gubernatorial candidate ruled ineligible to run because of the lack of a running mate.
"So the biggest problem for the Libertarian Party ... is they have to find somebody to run for lieutenant governor and get the 12 signatures or whatever they need to get to qualify for the ballot?" he asked. "They'll know the rules and they'll know, ‘You know what? We need to find somebody to run for lieutenant governor as well as governor.'"
In actuality, it takes at least 124 names on petitions to become a Libertarian Party candidate for statewide office. The figures, based on voter registration, are higher for Democrat and Republican contenders.
The same situation exists for the Green Party: While it had a candidate for secretary of state this year, she subsequently withdrew, leaving gubernatorial hopeful Larry Gist without the running mate he would legally need in 2014.
And that doesn't even consider the situation for those without party affiliation: What happens to an independent who gets the necessary signatures to run for governor, bypassing any need for a primary, if there is no independent seeking the No. 2 post?
Gullett said she believes that problem can be worked out later. She said the measure leaves the Legislature free to figure out what would happen if an independent actually were to be elected governor without being part of a "ticket."
There is some history in Arizona of independents not only running but doing fairly well.
In 1986, for example, Bill Schulz waged a campaign for governor, picking up nearly 26 percent of the vote. That three-way race ended up going to Republican Ev Mecham who got less than 40 percent.
Paton said if Proposition 111 passes, there will still be an opportunity to fix any problems. He said the Legislature could refer a revamped version to the ballot in 2012, in enough time to still have the change take effect with the 2014 election.
He said the ideal solution, from his perspective, would be for a gubernatorial candidate to hand pick his or her own running mate, the way it occurs now on the national level. But Paton said there was no support for it when it went through the Senate Judiciary Committee which he chaired before quitting earlier this year in his ill-fated run for Congress.