Our View: Lieutenant governor plan is less bad than previous versions

March 14, 2019

The premise behind the current push to create an office of lieutenant governor in Arizona is simple: Should the governor leave office or die, there should be a guarantee the successor is of the same political party.

Twice in the recent past a departing governor’s successor, the secretary of state, has been of the other main party. Rose Mofford, a Democrat, and Jan Brewer, a Republican, both replaced governors of the opposition party.

Each time that happens, politicians cry for a better way. They pass ballot resolutions to change the state Constitution. The voters have said no twice.

A new ballot question could face voters in 2020.

The Senate has approved putting it before voters.

If approved by the House, voters would be asked about creating a position that is based on a running-mate process with the gubernatorial candidate.

With some accompanying legislation, it even gives the lieutenant governor the actual job of running the Administration Department.

As such, says sponsor J.D. Mesnard, the Chandler Republican, it will be a cost savings because the position currently pays $215,000 annually versus the $95,000 salary set for the lieutenant governor.

Arizona is in the small minority of states without a lieutenant governor, so it’s a system that’s been well tested.

One of the basic universal criticisms, though, is that the post usually has few duties.

Arizona’s proposal would change that, though there are large questions on whether the Administration Department would be better served run by an elected politician.

Right now, Republicans see a Republican governor with a Democratic secretary of state. The opposite sometimes happens, though.

A big question with the proposal is the running-mate concept. If it’s such a good idea, why are gubernatorial candidates now informally doing it?

There is no prohibition on a governor candidate and a secretary of state candidate informally teaming up to show solidarity and the promise of continuity.

They still have to win their individual races under the current system versus voting for a single ticket under the proposal.

The Senate proposal is an improvement over earlier ballot questions, which voters trounced.

Will being a less-bad idea warrant changing the state Constitution?

— Today’s News-Herald