Democrat Terry Goddard said Sunday that his recent declaration “I intend to run for governor” does not require he resign from his current post. Goddard, the state attorney general, acknowledged making the statement recently.
“You cannot complain as much as I do and not be willing to put yourself on the line,” Goddard said to the cheers of the Grand Democrats who live in the Sun City Grand area. The tape of the speech was obtained by Espresso Pundit, a Web site run by Republican activist Greg Patterson.
“That’s exactly what I will do,” Goddard says on the tape. “And I really solicit all of your help in that mission.”
But Goddard told Capitol Media Services on Sunday that nothing he said or did crosses the line that officially makes him a candidate. More to the point, Goddard said he has not violated Arizona’s “resign to run” law that would automatically oust him from his current office.
“Intent is not doing it,’’ he said.
“We’ve actually done some research on that,” Goddard continued. He said the statutes clearly define when someone becomes a candidate.
Goddard acknowledged, though, he’s “closer to actually filing papers” to once again seek his party’s nomination for governor.
Whoever survives the Democratic primary likely would face off against incumbent Republican Jan Brewer, who became governor in January on the resignation of Democrat Janet Napolitano but has not yet said whether she wants a full four-year term of her own in 2010.
The law, which dates back two decades, says no current officeholder can offer himself or herself for nomination or election to any other office except during the final year of that person’s term. Goddard, elected in 2006, serves through the end of 2010.
Anyone who violates the statute is guilty of misfeasance in office, and that person’s office “shall be declared vacant.”
What constitutes candidacy, however, is limited to two situations.
One is the filing of formal nomination papers, which Goddard has not done.
The other is a “formal public declaration of candidacy for such office.” Goddard said no such declaration has occurred.
There is scant case law in Arizona on the question of when someone crosses the line.
In 1993, then Attorney General Grant Woods was asked whether the formation of an exploratory committee constitutes a declaration of candidacy. Woods concluded it did not.
But Woods, while saying there is no formal definition of what constitutes a declaration of candidacy, said the decision to form or not form an exploratory committee, by itself, is not the test.
He wrote that the decision to form such a committee does not shield the incumbent from resign-to-run laws “if other statements or conduct constitute a formal public declaration of candidacy.”
The question arose more recently when Tim Bee, then Senate president, formed his own exploratory committee in 2007 to run for Congress as a Republican against incumbent Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.
At that time, state Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens said the state law is triggered “when an officeholder’s behavior indicates that he is running for another office.”
This will be Goddard’s third bid for the state’s highest office.
He ran against Fife Symington in 1990. But when neither got an absolute majority, that forced a 1991 runoff that Symington won.
Goddard made another bid in 1994 but lost the Democratic primary to Eddie Basha, who was unable to unseat Symington.
Goddard most recently gained statewide publicity for his 11th-hour attempt to block the shutdown of the Tucson Citizen.
He claimed in a lawsuit, filed just one day before the paper’s last edition, that Gannett Co. Inc., the Citizen’s owners, and Lee Enterprises Inc., owner of the Arizona Daily Star, had conspired illegally to silence one of the editorial voices in the community.
But a federal judge rejected his request for an injunction, and Goddard subsequently withdrew the lawsuit.
Other Democrats reportedly weighing a race for governor include state Rep. David Bradley of Tucson and former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, who, according to the Arizona Capitol Times, switched his party registration from Republican to Democratic last year.