Still suffering postelection hangovers and with votes still being tallied, political junkies in Arizona already have turned toward the 2014 gubernatorial race. For the first time in more than a decade, the seat could be wide open.
But the woman who currently occupies the governor’s office on the ninth floor of the Executive Tower may complicate the race, at least for the Republican slate. Gov. Jan Brewer, who completed the final year of former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s term and then successfully ran for a four-year term in 2010, continues to talk publicly about running for a third term.
It would require a legal challenge to the state Constitution. Arizona law permits statewide-elected officials to serve only two consecutive terms. Article 5, Section 1 of the Arizona Constitution states, “No member of the executive department after serving the maximum number of terms, which shall include any part of a term served, may serve in the same office until out of office for no less than one full term.”
Brewer has said there is “ambiguity” in the Constitution, saying she does not read it as barring her from serving 2 1/4 terms.
Joe Kanefield, former general counsel to Brewer who is now in private practice, said the legal question centers on the definition of “term.” He has said drafters were referring to a governor who was elected to a term and not to a governor who inherited the office by succession.
“I haven’t ruled it out, and I’ve been encouraged by people — legal scholars and other people — that it’s probably something that I ought to pursue,” Brewer told The Arizona Republic.
I don't normally quote this much from a linked article, but Sanchez cited the exact section of the AZ Constitution that I was going to, and given the number of times that I've criticized the Republic for shoddy work, it's only fair to give credit where it is due.
Governor Brewer and her hired mouthpiece can protest that there is "ambiguity" in the section, but it's pretty clear. What is also pretty clear is that the Governor and her advisors/handlers are also fully aware that she has to do something to remain relevant at the Capitol.
As a lame duck governor, she is rapidly losing influence because she is viewed as not having a significant say in the choice of her successor. As such, various legislators and other "players" will be focused on positioning themselves for a run at the office on the 9th Floor of the Executive Tower, or in crafting an alliance with the person they think stands the best chance of winning.
Oh, and a couple of asides -
1. Brewer is quoted as saying that the AZ Constitution does not bar her from serving 2 1/4 terms. Without getting into the validity of that claim (OK - it's crap), "2 1/4"? Try closer to "2 1/2" terms, and then only if she is able to overturn the will of the voters as expressed when we enacted term limits on Arizona's state-level elected officials.
She ascended to the governor's office on January 21, 2009; that means she was in the office three weeks less than two years before she started the term she was elected into. That's a lot closer to half of an elected term than it is to a quarter. Of course, the difference is really no difference at all - the way that the law is written, even one day sworn into an office starts the term limits clock.
During the Spring 2013 semester her alma mater, Glendale Community College, is offering three sections of POS221, Arizona Constitution. There are in-person and online sections available, but I suggest an in-person class for her (and perhaps, her "legal scholars and other people") -
At an in-person class, she can ask the instructor to clearly explain "...which shall include any part of a term served...".
2. In this specific situation, it's likely that even if she mounts a successful legal challenge to the Arizona Constitution, the voters may just turn her "success" into a resounding failure. None of us - left, right, Democratic, Republican, independent, Libertarian, Green, engaged, apathetic, whatever - none of us approve of politicians who show blatant contempt for our expressed wishes.