By Geoff Pallay | Special to Watchdog.org
With the 2012 elections in the rearview mirror, speculation about future gubernatorial races is already in full swing. Party operatives and political analysts have already begun whipping themselves into a frenzy over the question of who’s going to run for their state’s chief executive officer in 2013 and 2014, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is doing her best to keep her name in circulation as a potential candidate, despite being ineligible for re-election next term.
Since the Arizona Constitution does not provide for the position of lieutenant governor, Brewer — then Arizona secretary of state — was the first in line to succeed Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano when she resigned to become secretary of Homeland Security on Jan. 20, 2009.
Fast forward two years, and Brewer is exploring a bid for re-election in 2014, though she faces a potentially insurmountable roadblock. Based on most interpretations of the state constitution, Brewer is ineligible to run for re-election.
No member of the executive department shall hold that office for more than two consecutive terms. This limitation on the number of terms of consecutive service shall apply to terms of office beginning on or after January 1, 1993. 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, who, again, was originally appointed to the position in 2009 and subsequently elected one time in 2010, is technically ineligible to seek re-election in 2014 under the state’s rules governing term limits for executive officials.
Joe Kanefield, Brewer’s former chief legal counsel, gave her the idea that she could circumvent the 1992 voter-approved proposition restricting governors to two consecutive terms, and he recently rehashed his case in an Arizona Republic piece.
Kanefield’s argument centers on the ballot measure provision about counting partial terms toward the maximum of two consecutive terms, without which Brewer would be indisputably eligible. He asserts that specific language “which shall include any part of a term served” was meant to prevent crafty politicians from resigning just short of their second term’s expiration in order to stay in office. And since Brewer, short of “gaming the system,” inherited the role automatically in 2009 per constitutional succession procedure, she ought to be able to run for re-election without violating the spirit of the law.
While Brewer has not officially thrown down the gauntlet, she has made several comments in the past month indicating a strong will to continue reigning past her term’s January 2015 expiration date.
Of the possible bid for re-election, and accompanying term-limit hurdle, the 68-year-old governor told the Arizona Republic, “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.”
As 2014 draws nearer and potential replacements launch campaigns for what they understand to be an open seat, Brewer will have to decide if the challenge is worth taking up to the Arizona Supreme Court. She would need a majority vote to enable her bid.
Brewer appointed three of the five total justices.
Geoff Pallay is special projects director at Ballotpedia, an organization that cultivates thriving citizenship through the free and open sharing of information. Contact him at geoff.pallay@ballotpedia.