Jan Brewer’s Retirement Will End a 17-Year Dynasty of Women Governors in Arizona

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer talks to the news media after voting in the Republican presidential primary February 28, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
March 12, 2014, 12:02 p.m.

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.

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