Gov. Jan Brewer (R)
Elected: Assumed office Jan. 2009, term expires Jan. 2011, 1st full term.
Born: Sept. 26, 1944, Hollywood, CA .
Family: Married (John); 3 children (1 deceased).
Elected office: AZ House, 1983-86; AZ Senate, 1987-96; Maricopa Co. Bd. of Supervisors, 1996-2002; AZ sec. of st., 2002-09.
Jan Brewer, a Republican, is the new governor of Arizona. She had been the secretary of state, but ascended to governor on Jan. 21, 2009, after Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano resigned to become President Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security. Brewer is the fifth secretary of state to succeed a governor—Arizona has no lieutenant governor—in state history. Brewer grew up in Los Angeles. Her father died of lung cancer when she was 11, and her mother started a small dress shop, where Brewer cleaned dressing rooms and worked the cash register. She got a degree in radiology from a California community college. In 1970, she married physician John Brewer and moved to Glendale in the West Valley near Phoenix. As a stay-at-home mom, she started attending school board meetings in 1981 and thought about running for the school board herself. Instead, a seat in the state Legislature opened, and she successfully ran for a House seat in 1982. She was re-elected in 1984 and then in 1986, won a seat in the state Senate, to which she was re-elected four times. In 1993, she became majority whip. She is a conservative who advocated tax cuts and voted against a Martin Luther King state holiday. She also opposed the 1988 impeachment of Republican Gov. Evan Mecham, who was charged with obstruction of justice and misuse of government funds. She backed charter schools and Arizona’s open-enrollment law, which allows students to attend any public school of their choice. She sponsored the first living-will statute in the nation.
|Janet Napolitano (D)||959,830||(63%)|
|Len Munsil (R)||543,528||(35%)|
|Janet Napolitano (D)||Unopposed|
In 1996, residents of Sun City were incensed when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved a .25% sales tax to build the Bank One Ballpark. Brewer decided to run for the West Valley seat on the board, was elected, and went on to become chairman. She helped persuade voters to support a .2% sales tax increase to build and upgrade county jails. Maricopa County is the fourth-largest county in the United States, and in 1996, it had serious financial problems, issuing $165 million in bonds to maintain cash flow. Brewer was regarded as a fiscal hawk, and by 2002 Governing magazine called Maricopa “one of the two best-managed large counties in the United States.” Brewer also took the lead in planning a homeless shelter campus in downtown Phoenix, preserving open space in the West Valley mountains, and keeping new subdivisions away from Luke Air Force Base. In February 2002, she resigned to run for secretary of state. “I always wanted to be secretary of state,” she said.
Brewer had two opponents in the Republican primary: Sal DiCiccio, a former Phoenix councilman, and Sharon Collins, an aide to Republican Gov. Jane Hull. DiCiccio criticized Brewer for not paying dues to a homeowners’ association in Mexico, where she and her husband had a house. Brewer contested that assertion and criticized DiCiccio for filing late and inaccurate financial reports in a congressional race. Collins called for conducting elections entirely through mail-in ballots, as in Oregon. Brewer called for eliminating punch cards in the nine rural counties where they were used and using optical-scan ballots instead. Brewer won with 45% of the votes, to 34% for DiCiccio and 21% for Collins. The Democratic nominee was state Sen. Chris Cummiskey, who promised a summer academy for high school students and cooperation with colleges and universities to encourage young people to vote. This was a close election year in Arizona: Democratic Attorney General Janet Napolitano beat former GOP Rep. Matt Salmon for governor 46%-45%; Democrat Terry Goddard, a former mayor of Phoenix and a 1990 and 1994 gubernatorial nominee, was elected attorney general by 52%-45%; and Brewer beat Cummiskey 49%-46%.
Relations between Napolitano and Brewer were sometimes testy; Brewer battled to keep her Tucson office open in 2003 after Napolitano took over the space and gave her a conference room. In 2004, Democrats criticized Brewer for serving as state co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign and for attending the 2004 Republican National Convention when Arizona was conducting its primary election on September 2. Brewer replied, “I did not give up my First Amendment rights when I was elected.” Democrats were also critical of Brewer’s defense and implementation of Proposition 200, passed by voters in 2004, which required voters to show identification and proof of citizenship to vote. In 2005, she and Goddard agreed that showing one piece of photo identification or two pieces of non-photo identification was sufficient. She was successful in getting optical-scan ballots in all counties, with special touch screens to enable the handicapped to vote unassisted, and in allowing ballots from military personnel overseas to be faxed in. When she was attacked by demonstrators for buying Diebold voting machines, which they argued are vulnerable to hacking, she called them “conspiracy theorists.” She was re-elected in 2006 by a comfortable 57%-39%, while Napolitano was re-elected by 63%-35% and Goddard by 60%-40%.
In Arizona, the secretary of state is the designated successor of the governor and has gubernatorial powers when the incumbent is out of state. That produced tension in July 2005, when Napolitano vacationed in Russia. Brewer herself wrote in an opinion article in the Arizona Republic in 1994 that the duties of the office “do little to prepare that officeholder for the statewide leadership role required of a governor.” The Brewers also suffered a personal tragedy in 2007, when they lost the middle of their three sons, John, to cancer.
As secretary of state, Brewer strove to avoid becoming isolated in the job. She continued to have a listed telephone number and drove to work in a convertible with the top down playing her favorite music, songs by ABBA in the musical Mamma Mia. Her ascent to the governorship came after the defeat of fellow Arizonan John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. President-elect Obama was impressed with Napolitano’s experience as a prosecutor and border-state governor, and on Dec. 1, 2008, he announced that he would nominate Napolitano for the Homeland Security post. Some Democrats were perturbed because Brewer’s elevation would give Republicans control of state government, and others feared that she would approve restrictions on gun ownership and on abortion that Napolitano had blocked. They also were concerned that she would have Arizona recede from the Western Climate Initiative, which Napolitano had supported. Brewer, referring to the fights between Napolitano and Republican legislative leaders, said, “I will reach out to both sides of the aisle and hope that we don’t have that kind of fallout that we’ve seen in the past.” She added, “I’m not on a mission to go in and do an across-the-board procedure of removing everyone from office. Certainly I want people who will be good for Arizona. People that will work with me. People that can find solutions, because we are in a situation in Arizona that is not real promising at this time.”
Arizona, the nation’s fastest or second fastest growing states for two decades, had experienced a real estate bubble as a result, and the bubble burst in 2007 as the recession set in. The considerable share of its economy in construction had severe problems. Napolitano prepared a final budget, which showed a $4.6 billion budget shortfall in the remaining 18 months of the biennium, a huge amount considering that the annual general fund is $9.9 billion. Shortly after taking office, Brewer told the Arizona Daily Star: “First I was worried, then I was concerned, and now I’m just angry to see what has happened and the irresponsible management that has led us to the brink of bankruptcy.” She said raising taxes would have to be an option. Brewer quickly named former state Senate President Ken Bennett to fill her old job as secretary of state. And at her inauguration as governor, she said: “We must make sure that beleaguered businesses in California and other such overtaxed places hear the music of our commerce and our culture and see brighter prospects in the cities and towns across Arizona.”
On January 30, after consulting with Brewer, Republican legislative appropriators approved a $1.6 billion reduction in spending, cutting $300 million from K-12 and higher education, eliminating emergency dental care and adult speech therapy, cutting $18 million intended for private-prison beds, and placing a one-year moratorium on scheduled bond sales of nearly $1 billion to finance improvements at the state’s three public universities. They also restored the $1.6 million for Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio that Napolitano, angry about his program targeting illegal aliens, had canceled. Early in 2009, Brewer also proposed a spring special election to approve a 1% increase in the 5.6% sales tax and expressed the hope that she could allow the state property tax to expire as scheduled in 2010.
Brewer assumed the governorship 22 months before the 2010 general election. Of the five secretaries of state who have ascended to the governorship in Arizona, only one, Hull in 1998, was elected governor in her own right. In early 2009, several Republicans were mentioned as possible primary challengers: former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, state Treasurer Dean Martin, and former Arizona Republican state chairman John Munger. On the Democratic side, a possible challenger is Attorney General Goddard, the former Phoenix mayor and gubernatorial nominee who lost to Republican Fife Symington by only 52%-48% in 1990.