The head of the Senate Government Committee has taken the first steps to a possible run for secretary of state.
Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, has formed an exploratory committee for the 2010 race.
That allows him to start collecting money without running afoul of Arizona's "resign to run" law which prohibits elected officials from becoming official candidates for another office more than one year before the end of their term. Harper was just re-elected to a fourth two-year term in the Senate.
Harper denied that the move, which comes while ballots from this race are still being counted, is a political maneuver designed to deter other Republicans from running for the post.
"This is just an exploratory committee to decide if that's a direction I should go," he said.
But Harper will have to do something other than be a senator after 2010, as the Arizona Constitution limits him to eight consecutive years in that chamber.
No one else has taken any steps yet toward seeking the secretary of state post.
Harper is particularly interested in the job's duties as Arizona's chief election officer.
Harper acknowledged that the role of the state's chief elections officer provides only limited power to actually direct how each of the state's 15 counties, with their own elected recorders, conduct voting. But Harper said the law does give the secretary of state oversight over the conduct of all elections.
"Some would say the position is more of a watchdog than a dog that has bite," he said. "The secretary of state is someone who actually has to have the spine to stand there and make sure that integrity is not going to be trampled in the courts to open our elections system up to fraud," he said.
Jan Brewer, the current secretary of state, used her position to defend laws approved by voters in 2004 to require proof of citizenship to register and identification to cast a ballot at the polls. Brewer, first elected in 2002, cannot run for re-election again because of term limits.