Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fact Checking the Arizona Republic

Wherein I have the opportunity to correct one (or more) career journalists on the facts...

One of the advantages of doing this is that I've learned a *lot* about the technical aspects of Arizona politics.  Probably not as much as if I had been a student in one of Harry Mitchell's civics classes at Tempe High, but I've learned enough to actually help out Capitol tour guides on at least one occasion at the legislature.

So my eyebrows raised a little on Sunday when I read this passage from the Arizona Republic's Political Insider column -
Brewer may not have a second in command, but Secretary of State Ken Bennett seems to think he is capable of filling the job.

The "No. 2 spot," as Bennett described his office this week, would get a more powerful title if voters pass Proposition 111. The Nov. 2 ballot measure would essentially eliminate the office of secretary of state, transferring its duties to a newly created lieutenant-governor position.

Bennett said he won't take a stance on propositions that are under his watch as Arizona's current secretary of state, but he supports any "concept" that would make it clear that a vote for secretary of state could be a de facto vote for governor.

During an interview on Wednesday with The Arizona Republic's Editorial Board, Bennett said voters need a reminder that the position he holds is first in line to take over if Arizona's governor dies, resigns or, say, is recruited by the president to be the head of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

When Brewer, Arizona's former secretary of state, took over for Janet Napolitano, Brewer appointed Bennett to her old job. Now, he is asking voters to elect him as secretary of state over challenger Chris Deschene, D-Window Rock. If he wins, and Prop. 111 passes, voters will be calling him Lt. Gov. Bennett.
Ummm...not-so-minor problem with that last paragraph - if Bennett wins in November, it's highly unlikely that anyone will *ever* refer to him as "Lt. Gov. Bennett."

Even if Prop. 111 passes (far from guaranteed) and survives some inevitable legal challenges (not likely, but more on that tomorrow or Tuesday after I make some phone calls), it won't go into effect until the 2014 cycle.

At that point, if Bennett wins this year, he'll be termed-out as Secretary of State and will be barred from running for the newly-renamed office. 

There *are* a couple of scenarios where Bennett could run for a possible Lt. Governorship.

1. He could lose this year (I like this one - vote Deschene!) and choose to run for it in 2014.

2. He could win this year, serve out the term, take a full term off to reset the term limits clock, and then run for the office again in 2018.

These two scenarios seem highly unlikely.  Regardless of this year's results in the SOS race, if Bennett runs for a statewide office in 2014, it will probably be for Governor.

- If Terry Goddard wins the November election for Governor, look for Bennett, Dean Martin, and one or two other R "big names" to look at challenging him in 2014.

- If Jan Brewer wins in November, she'll be termed-out in 2014 and the race will be for an open seat, and again, Bennett would be in the mix of Rs looking at the seat.

Adding to that is the fact that Bennett is both young enough (~50) and far enough up in Arizona's political food chain that he is still on the "up or out" political trajectory.  Taking a term off and then running for an office he has already held would be seen as the end of the "ascendancy" portion of his career and serve to reduce his credibility as a candidate overall.

Put it all together and neither Bennett nor Deschene (whichever one wins in November) will be referred to as "Lieutenant Governor" after the election, and Bennett will likely never run for that particular office in the event Prop. 111 passes the voters.

More on Prop. 111 later this week...

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