Gov. Brewer may challenge understanding of term limits
PHOENIX -- She's not out printing up bumper stickers and buttons -- at least not yet.
But Gov. Jan Brewer wants everyone to know that she believes she could legally seek another full four-year term in office in 2014 if that's what she decides to do, regardless of the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment on term limits.
Her contention is based on a legal opinion crafted for her by Joe Kanefield when he was her chief legal counsel.
Kanefield, now an attorney in private practice, acknowledged the Arizona Constitution says statewide elected officials can serve only two consecutive terms. And it says that calculation "shall include any part of a term served.'
But Kanefield says the time Brewer spent finishing out Janet Napolitano's term in 2009 and 2010 does not count toward her two-term limit. He said the clock started running when Brewer took office in January 2011 after winning the 2010 race.
"Several people have talked to me about that,' Brewer said Tuesday of a 2014 race. While the governor said she's made no decision, "it's very interesting the way that certain people interpret the law and the constitution, if you will.'
"I have been encouraged from people in the state and elsewhere, to at least consider it,' she said.
Brewer, who would be 70 in November 2014, said her refusal to tamp down speculation about another run is not a slap at other Republicans waiting in the wings, including state Treasurer Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
"What it says is that I'm the current sitting governor and I love my job and that I have made major reforms in the state of Arizona,' she said.
"Am I burned out? No. I love what I'm doing,' Brewer continued. "I think I could continue by making Arizona a better state in which to live. It's just something that's in my blood, I guess.'
Kanefield said he believes those who crafted the 1992 ballot measure put in the provision about part of a term counting toward a full term to keep politicians from "gaming' the system, resigning right before the end of their second term in a bid to remain in office.
And he said that rule should apply to someone who seeks and is appointed to fill out someone else's term.
But Kanefield noted that Brewer was secretary of state in 2009 when Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration. More to the point, he said already existing provisions of the Arizona Constitution made the succession automatic.
"That way we always have someone with the powers and authority of governor,' Kanefield said. And he said that should not be held against Brewer or anyone else in a similar position.
"It doesn't make any sense to penalize the secretary of state who becomes governor because that person didn't have a choice,' he said.
It will be up to Brewer to test that theory, as any effort to run in 2014 is virtually certain to provoke a legal fight. That would leave the final decision up to a majority of the five-member Arizona Supreme Court.
Three of the justices are Brewer appointees. But that likely means nothing, as the court has sided against Brewer in some past legal battles like her bid to fire the chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission.
The issue arose one other time since the 1992 vote: when Jane Hull became governor in 1997 after Fife Symington was convicted of criminal charges in federal court. But Hull, who won a term of her own in 1998, chose not to run again in 2002.
Symington's criminal conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court. He was pardoned by outgoing President Bill Clinton before there could be another trial.