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Arizona voters approve proposition creating lieutenant governor position

Arizona voters approve proposition creating lieutenant governor position

  •  Voters in the 2022 Arizona midterm election approved Proposition 131, which creates a lieutenant governor position in the state.
    Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror Voters in the 2022 Arizona midterm election approved Proposition 131, which creates a lieutenant governor position in the state.

In future elections, candidates for Arizona governor will run alongside their chosen lieutenant governor, after voter support for Proposition 131 outstripped opposition. 

The third time was the charm for Proposition 131, which sought to convince voters to approve an expansion of the state’s executive branch after two previously unsuccessful attempts in 1994 and 2010, each of which was struck down by a large percentage. A round of midterm results reported over the weekend saw it hold steady with 55% of votes in support and 45% against. With a margin between the two of more than 200,000 and only 160,021 votes left to count across the state, the measure is set to pass.

Arizona is one of only five states without the position of lieutenant governor, and lawmakers have tried to put the matter to voters in the past, with the two previous propositions being roundly rejected. Because it requires changes to the state constitution, the office can’t be created without voter approval. 

Under Proposition 131, lieutenant governors would be handpicked by gubernatorial candidates and both would run on a joint ticket, much the same as a presidential candidate and their running mate for vice president. In the event of a governor’s death, resignation, removal from office or other disability that interferes with their work, the lieutenant governor would be first in the line of succession. 

As it stands today, a vacancy in the governor’s office is resolved by the secretary of state. Next in line are the attorney general, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. But, proponents of Prop. 131 say, the party identification and goals of each of those offices aren’t always in alignment. 

Allowing future governors to pick their running mates — and it’s safe to assume they’d be likely to pick from within their own party — would eliminate the risk of whiplash from ideological changes in the office that has been a problem in the past. In 2009, Republican Jan Brewer took up the mantle of governor when Democrat Janet Napolitano resigned to become the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. And when Republican governor Evan Mecham was impeached in 1988, Democrat Rose Mofford replaced him. 

While a political change in the office has only occurred twice, advocates for the creation of a lieutenant governor argue that it isn’t unrealistic to be concerned it might happen again — especially with Arizona’s gubernatorial track record. Besides Napolitano and Mecham, four others have vacated the office due to removal, resignation or death. 

Prop. 131 was referred to the ballot through a bipartisan effort, with both Democrat and Republican lawmakers agreeing to put it before voters during the November election.  

“It would create better continuity and predictability within our government, providing voters greater confidence when selecting an administration,” wrote Republican state Sen. J.D. Mesnard, who sponsored the underlying bill, and Democratic state Sen. Sean Bowie, who voted for it, in a joint statement of support calling on Arizonans to approve the change.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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