Would you choose the same person for lieutenant governor that you supported for secretary of state?
Chuck Gray thinks perhaps not. So the Republican state senator from Mesa has introduced a measure to change the name of the office.
SCR 1002 would leave unchanged all of the duties the secretary of state now has. These range from recording trade names and living wills to being the state’s chief election official.
What would change, Gray said, is public awareness of a one aspect of the office.
“I think that when people try to decide who they want for their secretary of state, they really need to realize that’s the next person in line for the governorship,’’ he said. And Gray said that isn’t as rare an occurrence as one might think.
Two decades ago, Rose Mofford became governor after the Legislature impeached and then convicted Evan Mecham, tossing him from office.
And Fife Symington was forced to give up his job as the state’s chief executive in 1997 to Secretary of State Jane Hull after he was convicted of criminal charges in federal court. The fact that the conviction was later overturned and he was not retried, courtesy of a presidential pardon, did not entitle him to reclaim his office.
Gray said the title of lieutenant governor clearly puts voters on notice that the person they are supporting could wind up being the governor.
The National Lieutenant Governors Association says Oregon and Wyoming are the only other states where the secretary of state is first in line of succession.
Jan Brewer, the current secretary of state, supports the change. In fact, she has been trying to have lawmakers approve the measure for years.
If lawmakers approve the measure and it gains the necessary voter ratification next year, SCR 1002 would make the change immediate. That would give Brewer the new title even though she never actually was elected to that position.
It also could give what would be Lt. Gov. Brewer an advantage if she decides to run for governor when her four-year term is up at the end of 2010.
But Gray said he’s not trying to make her the heir apparent among Republicans hoping for the job. In fact, he said he doesn’t really want the job title to change until after the 2010 election even though that’s not the way his measure is crafted.
“I don’t think the intent is to crown her automatically the lieutenant governor,’’ he said.
As to his own future, Gray said he’s not looking at becoming Brewer’s successor -- at least not at this point.
“Any office, whether it’s corporation commission or congressman or U.S. senator or governor or any of those offices, you always want to leave your options open,’’ he said. “But I’m not anticipating at this point running for lieutenant governor.’’
Successions to governor:
1948 -- Dan Garvey becomes governor on death of Sidney Osborn.
1977 -- Wesley Bolin becomes governor when Raul Castro resigns to become ambassador to Argentina.
1978 -- Attorney General Bruce Babbitt becomes governor on Bolin’s death; the secretary of state could not take the post because she had been appointed to replace Bolin.
1988 -- Rose Mofford becomes governor after impeachment and conviction of Evan Mecham.
1997 -- Jane Hull becomes governor after Fife Symington quits following felony conviction.
According to the National Lieutenant Governors Association:
- 24 states have the governor and lieutenant governor elected as a team at the general election;
- 18 states have governor and lieutenant governor elected separately;
- 4 of those states (Alabama, Rhode Island, Virginia and California) currently have officials of different parties in the two positions;
- 3 states (Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming) have an separately elected secretary of state as first in line of succession;
- 5 states (Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and West Virginia) have the presiding officer of the Senate as first in line of succession; New Jersey has created the office of lieutenant governor and will elect its first, in a team election, in 2010.