Our View: Arizona is supposed to have one of the toughest laws in the country to keep our elected officials focused on doing their present job instead of constantly looking ahead to higher office. In reality, the law is a paper tiger.
Arizona is supposed to have one of the toughest laws in the country to keep our elected officials focused on doing their present job instead of constantly looking ahead to higher office.
In reality, the law is a paper tiger. Ambitious politicians usually twist words and play coy. But the statute fails utterly to deter them from plotting and maneuvering well ahead of the traditional campaign season.
Commonly called “resign to run,” the law basically says state and local elected officials must immediately quit if they become candidate for another office while they have more than a year left at their present post.
And if someone refuses to resign? As written, the law would allow a judge to declare the office to be vacant to begin process of appointing a replacement.
But the standard for violating this law is so high that officeholders can take on many of the trappings of a candidate.
Just ask Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. As first reported by the Republican-oriented political blog Espresso Pundit, Goddard recently told an audience of West Valley Democrats in response to a question that “I intend to run for governor” in 2010.
Capitol Media Services reported Sunday that Goddard is confident he hasn’t run afoul of “resign to run” because he didn’t make a formal announcement, nor he has filed the proper paperwork, yet. And Goddard is probably right. Other officeholders have been allowed in the past to create exploratory fund-raising committees and to create printed literature and Web sites that appeared amazingly close to campaigning, but such folks are never forced out of existing jobs.
There can be plenty of partisan Sturm und Drang when politicians inch ever closer to becoming candidates. For weeks in late 2007, the Arizona Democratic Party blasted claims to the media that then-state Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, should be forced out by “resign to run” because he was gearing up early for a congressional race.
The real concern here is the public keeps hearing about a law that seems straightforward but apparently can’t be enforced.
This inspires more cynicism toward all politicians and more doubt about the viability of the rule of law in our democratic republic.
Given our leanings toward more freedom and honesty in political speech, we’d prefer that Arizona repeal the misleading “resign to run” law as an idea that never worked out. But if our government believes it should remain in statute, it had better figure out a way to give it some real teeth.