Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced Wednesday she would not seek a third term as governor of her state, quieting a possible rift within the state Republican Party and putting an end to a potential fight over the state constitution.
But Brewer stepping aside does more than signal the departure of a mercurial governor who arguably has grabbed more national headlines over the past five years than any other state's chief executive (and certainly more than any who hasn't been looked at as a presidential contender). It also brings to end a remarkable 17-year stretch of female governors in Arizona that spanned across three administrations and party lines.
Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, ran the state from 2003 to 2009 after slowly climbing the state's political ladder, which included a stop along the way as state attorney general. Before Napolitano, who resigned in 2009 to head the Homeland Security Department, Jane Hull, a Republican, presided over Arizona beginning in 1997, after Fife Symington was forced to resign amid scandal.
Arizona will still hold the record, at four, for the state with most female governors (Rose Mofford, also a Democrat, immediately preceded Symington). But with Brewer out of the picture the state will almost certainly elect a male governor in 2014.
Voters have a laundry list of candidates on the Republican side, but the three heavyweights — Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey — are all white men. Former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, a Republican, is running, but is new to the political arena and not regarded as a serious threat to the more established front-runners.
And Democrats have, so far, largely coalesced behind Fred DuVal, former chairman of the state's Board of Regents.
Although Brewer's decision was largely expected by many observers in the state, the calculating governor has made a habit of surprising friends and enemies alike. She had repeatedly insisted that her first two-year term did not preclude her from running for a third term, which a voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibits.
But whatever her reason for announcing she won't run, the end of Brewer's six-year stewardship closes a riveting chapter of the state's history — one marked by a heated debate on illegal immigration and bills passed by the statehouse that often left the rest of the country either confused or outraged. And it ends an impressive reign of female leadership not seen anywhere else in the country.