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Voters say no to lieutenant governor for Arizona

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Voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to create the post of lieutenant governor, which would have replaced the secretary of state position.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 111 trailing by a wide margin.

This is the second time such a ballot measure has gone down, with a similar proposition to create a separate office of lieutenant governor failing in 1994.

The measure, which was to take effect in 2014, would have had a party's nominees for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in primary elections but as a joint ticket in general elections.

The state constitution would have been changed to rename the office of secretary of state as lieutenant governor. The office holder would have assumed the secretary of state's duties, including administering elections.

Opponents called the proposition a strategic move by the major parties to ensure a cycle of incumbency for the party in power. They raised concerns about disenfranchising independent candidates.

Joe Sigg, director of government relations at Arizona Farm Bureau, which opposed the proposition, said he does not believe the idea of creating an office of lieutenant governor should be declared dead, only that the current proposition as written was not acceptable to voters.

"I'm guessing voters looked at this and probably assumed this is something the insiders want," he said.

Supporters argued the proposition would help make Arizona's line of succession clear, as governors have been replaced four times by secretaries of state (and once by the attorney general). They also said it would ease voter confusion by preventing the governor's office from switching parties if there were a change mid-term.

Garrick Taylor, director of communication at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, which backed the proposition, said the initiative's language will have to be reviewed. Voters may have been put off or confused over the ability of independent candidates obtaining the offices of governor and lieutenant governor.

"The voters, at least in 2010, have spoken, so we'll have to go back to the drawing board," Taylor said.

The Legislature referred the measure, authored by former Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, to the ballot last spring. It received endorsements from Gov. Jan Brewer and the O'Connor House Project, a group including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that is exploring ways of reforming Arizona government.

The most recent example of the secretary of state replacing a governor was Brewer, a Republican who took over when Democrat Janet Napolitano left the state's top office in early 2009 to join President Barack Obama's cabinet. It was one of two times the succession changed the political party in the governor's office.

Another party switch occurred when Democrat Rose Mofford replaced Republican Gov. Evan Mecham, who was impeached and removed from office in 1988.

The group Yes on 111, with Phoenix City Councilman Thomas Simplot as its chairman, had raised $18,600 through Oct. 13, according to a filing with the Secretary of State's Office.

Contractor Sundt Companies Inc. and the Arizona Business Coalition contributed $5,000 each to Yes on 111, and the Arizona Cardinals, Greater Phoenix Leadership Inc. and the political action committee Arizona Firefighters contributed $2,500 each, the filing showed.

Arizona Farm Bureau and third-party candidates opposed Proposition 111, raising a little more than $2,000 to combat the measure.

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