Political buzz is growing about the possibility of Gov. Janet Napolitano becoming the running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Arizona Democrats have been talking for a couple of weeks about Napolitano’s chances after the national party settles on its challenger to President Bush. That appears to be Kerry. The New York Times mentioned Napolitano in a story Saturday about his potential choices for vice president.
"We're looking at who would be out there that is an up-and-comer, that has the moxie to do it, and the governor's name surfaces," said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, D-District 5 of Phoenix. "I know a lot of people nationally, and . . . I've heard her name a lot."
Napolitano, 46, was first identified as a political star after she was elected state attorney general in 1998. She was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
Several of Napolitano's actions this year have kept her in the line of sight of all of the Democratic presidential candidates. She made several appearances on national media to call attention to Arizona's Feb. 3 presidential primary while staying strictly neutral on the race itself.
She also has ties to the Kerry camp. Mario Diaz, Napolitano's former campaign manager and political aide, directed Kerry's Arizona campaign through the Feb. 3 primary.
Diaz said Tuesday that he has no inside knowledge of who might be on Kerry's list. But Napolitano's popularity in Arizona and her ties to New Mexico — she was raised in Albuquerque — would provide regional balance to Kerry's New England background, Diaz said.
"This is just all speculation, of course," Diaz said. "But all things being equal, she's a dynamic, up-and-coming leader in the Southwest. Given the electoral votes, Arizona is going to play a critical role. Her roots in New Mexico are an added plus for her."
Napolitano told reporters she's not angling to be on the national ticket.
"It's nice to be thought of, it's flattering," she said Tuesday. "But I'm a first-term, first-year governor, and we have a big agenda here in Arizona. That's what I'm focused on."
But some observers said such answers are typical for ambitious politicians looking to avoid any potential backlash from their constituents if they aren't selected.
"If anybody tells you they wouldn't be interested in being vice president, they're not telling you the truth," U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-La., told The New York Times.
No woman has ever been elected vice president. Only one woman has been nominated: Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984. Democrats still wince at their landslide defeat to the incumbent team of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Unlike Napolitano, who leads a state that is generally considered conservative, Ferraro was from New York.
Some Arizona Democrats are hoping the Ferraro fallout has finally faded.
"Obviously, I think the governor would make an excellent candidate for the vice presidency," Diaz said. "I'm sure a lot of her supporters and confidants would encourage her to consider it."