The Executive Summary: Lawmakers seek to eliminate and alter state executive positions

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April 18, 2013

Edited by Greg Janetka

MADISON, Wisconsin: In legislatures around the country this year, lawmakers have introduced a number of resolutions to either eliminate or alter state executive positions. Today's edition of the Executive Summary features recent action in Illinois and Tennessee. We also take a look at the ongoing investigation against the Utah Attorney General and keep you up to date on election related developments.

Proposal to eliminate Illinois lt. governor post

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon

On April 11, 2013, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a proposal seeking to eliminate the position of lieutenant governor by constitutional amendment. In order for the measure to be passed, it must win approval of both the State Senate and Illinois voters. If the proposal is approved in a statewide public vote, the office will remain intact for one final term following the 2014 election.[1]

After the bill passed in the state House, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) spoke out in favor of preserving the office, which he previously held for six years until former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment caused him to ascend to the governorship. "I believe in that office, for sure, he said of the lieutenant governor, who is empowered to oversee the Illinois River Coordinating Council, the state’s Rural Affairs Council and the Illinois Main Street Program, in addition to being first in the line of succession to take over as governor in the event there is a vacancy the office. When Quinn was lt. governor under Blagovevich, he stretched the role of lt. governor's beyond statutory bounds, and dedicated the office's resources and limited powers to issues such as finding aid for families of military service members. Quinn is the fifth of the state’s forty-six previous lt. governors to have succeeded to the top job mid-term.

“There are some issues that fall between the cracks, and somebody has to stand up for those issues,” he said, and cited his work helping veterans, among other issues, Quinn said. “It’s good to have a backup quarterback.”[2] Next in line after the lt. governor is the attorney general.

Tennessee legislators seek to appoint Attorney General

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper

State Sen. Mark Green (R) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 196, a measure which would give legislators the power to appoint the attorney general. On April 17, the bill passed in the Senate by a 22-9 vote. It now faces a vote in the House. Tennessee is currently the only state where the state Supreme Court appoints the Attorney General. Republicans pushing the measure argue the current system contains a conflict of interest as the attorney general must argue before the court. Those opposed said there is no conflict of interest, as the court has had the power of appointment since 1870. Green criticized current AG Robert Cooper (D) for refusing to join the lawsuit against the federal Affordable Care Act filed by other attorneys general.[3]

In order to change the appointing authority, the state Constitution has to be amended, therefore SJR 196 is the first step in a long process. If passed by the House, either this year or next year, it would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber during the 2015-16 session, and would then appear before voters on the 2018 ballot. If approved by voters, legislators would first be able to appoint the attorney general in 2019.[4]

Utah Attorney General John Swallow

Utah Attorney General accused of violating election law

On March 7, 2013, Crystal Young-Otterstrom and Maryann Martindale filed a petition against Utah Attorney General John Swallow (R), alleging 12 violations of election law related to financial and business interest disclosures. Young-Otterstrom and Martindale are both with the Alliance for a Better UTAH (ABU), a left-leaning think tank. David Irvine, a former Republican state legislator, is acting as their attorney.

Jason Powers, Swallow's campaign consultant, quickly dismissed the petition, stating, “A very quick internet search reveals that on counts one and three Mr Irvine has identified the wrong John Swallow. Such carelessness is pervasive throughout this inaccurate and meritless complaint.”[5]

According to the complaint, election papers filed by Swallow on March 9 were very different from new papers he filed on March 15. Among the differences, the March 9 papers showed Swallow as owner of Swallow and Associates, while the March 15 papers only listed him as a board member of adviser. It is also alleged that he tried to hide his interest in a number of companies and non-profits.[5]

The petition went to the lieutenant governor. As a result of the ABU complaint, it was discovered that state law required the Attorney General to investigate election complaints, even if the AG was the subject of the complaint. In response, the Legislature rushed Senate Bill 289 through on the last day of the session. Under the bill, the Utah Lieutenant Governor is given the power to name an independent special counsel to investigate the AG.[6][7] The bill was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on March 27, 2013. [8]

On April 9, Swallow's lawyers filed a written response with the lieutenant governor's office. He did not make the document public, leaving that decision up to the lieutenant governor's office. Chief deputy lieutenant governor and state elections director Mark Thomas said it would be reviewed and would be released if it does not impact the investigation.[9]

Iowa Auditor resigns

Iowa Auditor David Vaudt

Iowa Auditor of State David Vaudt (R) announced on April 4, 2013 that he would be resigning his position next month in order to become chairman of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. He officially assumes the new role on July 1, but is moving to Norwalk, Connecticut on May 13.[10]

Iowa is one of 24 states that publicly elects the statewide position of auditor. Vaudt was first elected in 2002 and has been re-elected twice. Prior to his election he served as Chair of the Iowa Accountancy Examining Board from 1995-2002.[11] Announcing his resignation, Vaudt stated, "I have to tell you this is a bittersweet time for me. It has been truly an honor and a privilege to serve as Iowa's auditor for the last decade. I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure."[12]

The next election for auditor won't take place until November 4, 2014. In the meantime Gov. Terry Branstad (R) will appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Vaudt's term. The governor has launched a website seeking applicants for the job.

Lt. Govs show little success in bids for governorship

An April 12 article in Governing looked at how successful lieutenant governors have been in their bids for the governorship. Their research showed that since the early 1990s they made 55 attempts for the top post, of which 17 won and 38 lost - a winning percentage of 31 percent.[13]

Democratic lieutenant governors ran 37 times, Republicans 17, with one Independent. Democrats did slightly better overall, winning 35 percent of their contests, versus Republicans 24 percent. However, it is noted that those who did win did not necessarily achieve much success in the office and most never won high office again.[13]

Virginia stood out among the states, where incumbent lieutenant governors won four of the nine races for governor since 1977. State term-limits allow governors only one term in office and provide lieutenant governors with an advantage. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato explained the situation, stating, "It's a part-time, poorly paid post whose occupants mainly spend their time running for governor." And due to Virginia's system, he added, "being seen as in the wings is a big plus."[13]


See also: State executive official elections, 2013
State Executive Official Elections Results in 2013
Office Incumbent Incumbent Party Incumbent Running? 2013 Winner Partisan switch?
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie Ends.png Republican Yes Pending
Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno Ends.png Republican Yes Pending
Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell Ends.png Republican No Pending
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Bill Bolling Ends.png Republican No Pending
Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli Ends.png Republican No (running for governor) Pending
Superintendent of Wisconsin Tony Evers Grey.png Nonpartisan Yes Tony Evers No

There are three states holding state executive official elections in 2013 -- New Jersey, Virginia and Wisconsin. A total of six officials will be elected. The attention-grabbing positions up for election are Governor of New Jersey and Governor of Virginia. Both made The Washington Post’s list of the top 5 races to watch in 2013.

Mark your calendar
May 17-18Virginia Republican Party holds statewide primary convention
June 4New Jersey primary election
June 11Virginia Democratic primary election
November 5General election in New Jersey and Virginia


The first state executive election in 2013 took place in Wisconsin on April 2, 2013. Incumbent Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers won re-election to a second term against challenger Don Pridemore.[14] Evers, a career educator, handily defeated Don Pridemore, a Wisconsin State Assemblyman since 2005. Although the Superintendent of Public Instruction is a nonpartisan position, Evers is a Democrat and Pridemore is a Republican.

The race attracted considerable buzz in the lead-up to the election, owing in large part to the controversial education proposals put forth by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in his 2013-2015 budget plan, as well as Pridemore's penchant for provoking the media - with dramatic pronouncements about his campaign agenda or else by creating a blacklist of a number of "liberal"[15] political reporters.[16][17]

At 100% of precincts reporting, Evers received over 61% of the vote, equaling 486,241 votes. This unofficial figure points to Evers' growth in popularity since his initial election to the post back in 2009, when he won 439,248 votes and a roughly 15 percentage point victory over a different single challenger, Rose Fernandez.

Below are the unofficial results of the superintendent race, current as of April 18, 2013. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is scheduled to certify the results on April 23.[18]

  • 2013 General election:
Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Non-partisan Green check mark transparent.pngTony Evers Incumbent 61.2% 486,241
     Non-partisan Don Pridemore 38.8% 308,039
Total Votes 794,280
Election Results via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

*100% precincts reporting


Heading into the 2013 election, all three state executive offices up for election this year in Virginia - Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General - are occupied by Republicans, and none are seeking re-election to their current posts.[19]

The current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell is ineligible to run for re-election in 2013 because of term limits. The term limits Virginia imposes on its governors are more strict than any other state in the country: under the commonwealth's constitution, no governor may serve back-to-back terms. This means that McDonnell, unlike other governors in their first term, is ineligible to run for re-election until a full term has passed.

There are no such term limits on the attorney general, and many were surprised at current AG Ken Cuccinelli's (R) decision to run for governor rather than seek another term. If not for Cuccinelli, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would have been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to succeed current Governor Bob McDonnell. Bolling expressed more disappointment than surprise that Cuccinelli had chose to challenge him in the gubernatorial primary rather than be his lieutenant gubernatorial running-mate, noting "nothing he does surprises me."[20]

Bolling suspended his campaign on November 28, 2012, citing his slim chances beating tea party favorite and attorney general Ken Cuccinelli for the party's nomination. Bolling's withdrawal stems from a decision by Virginia Republicans to change their method for selecting gubernatorial nominees from open primary election to closed nominating convention.[21] Although Bolling was explicit about ending his pursuit of a place on the Republican ticket, he waited until March 12 before ruling out the possibility of running as an independent candidate instead.[22] About the alternative of seeking re-election to his current post, Bolling stated that, “Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli.”[23]

McDonnell had previously pledged his support for Bolling's candidacy- in part because Bolling refrained from challenging McDonnell for governor in 2009. After Bolling bowed out, McDonnell chose to endorse fellow Republican Cuccinelli for his successor, despite Cuccinelli's outspoken opposition to McDonnell's Transportation Initiative, which is considered to be the centerpiece of his gubernatorial legacy. Meanwhile, Cuccinelli's future general election opponent, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, has been equally outspoken on the issue, but as an advocate and defender of the outgoing governor's approach to amending the state's transportation funding policy. [24][25][26]

Like Cuccinelli, McAuliffe faces no primary contest. The two contenders will square off in the general election on November 5, 2013.[27]

The following list of candidates for both the Republican primary convention and the Democratic primary election is official as of March 28, 2013:

Governor candidates:

Democratic candidates
Republican candidates

Lieutenant Governor candidates:

Democratic candidates
Republican candidates
  • Republican Party Corey Stewart - Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors
  • Republican Party Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (former State Senator)[33]
  • Republican Party Susan Stimpson - Chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors
  • Republican Party E.W. Jackson - Chesapeake minister, former U.S. Senate candidate.

Attorney General candidates:

Democratic candidates
  • Democratic Party Justin Fairfax - Former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia[35]
Republican candidates

New Jersey

In November 2012, the Washington Post rated the New Jersey gubernatorial election as one of the top five races to watch in 2013.[37]

First term incumbent Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced his bid for re-election on November 26, 2012, the day before Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Christie's approval rating soaring to 72%, compared to 56% in October and previous record high of 59% from April.[38][39] The peak job approval ratings from New Jersey voters were Christie's reward for his performance in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In early 2013, names of potential Democratic candidates for New Jersey Governor defected to a new list - supporters of presumptive nominee Barbara Buono, a state Senator. Buono was the only individual from her party to formally enter the race until the April 1 primary candidate filing deadline; Four additional Democrats ultimately filed for the Democratic primary nomination, as well as one Republican candidate.[40]

In February, when Buono's campaign passed the $380,000 fundraising mark to qualify for the state's public matching-funds program, Christie had already raised $2 million for his re-election campaign. Unlike in 2009, Christie stated that he will not accept matching funds in the 2013 primary.[41] Despite Buono’s expanding campaign coffer and list of endorsements, which now includes the Democratic Governors’ Association, she faces what appears to be an uphill battle. The incumbency advantage aside, Christie’s fundraising prowess and popularity--especially since Hurricane Sandy--among heavyweights from both major parties shield him against an upset in November.

The following list of candidates is official as of the April 1, 2013 primary candidate filing deadline.

Democratic candidates
Republican candidates

252px-Question book-3.jpg In how many states can an individual who is not a licensed attorney serve as Attorney General?

The Attorney General is an executive office in all 50 states that serves as the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the state government and is empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature. In most states, the attorney general has a substantial influence on a state's approach to law enforcement. Attorneys general often set particular law enforcement priorities (e.g. drug law, civil rights violations or sexual crime) and focus extra resources on these issues. This puts them, in the words of the National Association of Attorneys General, at the "intersection of law and public policy."[45][46]

Given this description of the office and its myriad legal responsibilities, it may surprise you to discover that a whopping nineteen states have no set statutory or constitutional qualifications for attorney general requiring the officeholder to hold a license to practice law.[47] They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Among these states, all but two, New Jersey, and Tennessee, are elected by the people.


  1. The Chicago Tribune, "House votes to eliminate lieutenant governor post," April 12, 2013
  2. The State Journal Register, "Quinn against eliminating lieutenant governor post," April 15, 2013
  3. Times Free Press, "Tenn. state senators begin process to put legislators in charge of selecting attorney general," April 17, 2013
  4. ‘'The Commercial Appeal, “Process to change appointment procedure for Attorney General begins,” April 17, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 FOX 13, "Civil complaint filed against AG John Swallow," March 7, 2013
  6. Huffington Post, "Utah Legislators Rush Legislation Involving Possible Investigation Into Attorney General John Swallow," March 14, 2013
  7. FOX 13, "Legislature passes bill to handle Swallow investigation," March 13, 2013
  8. Legal Newsline, "Bill preventing Utah AG from investigating self signed by governor," March 28, 2013
  9. Deseret News, "Attorney General Swallow files response to alleged election violations," April 9, 2013
  10. The Gazette, "Iowa state auditor Vaudt resigning," April 4, 2013
  11. Iowa Auditor of State, "David A. Vaudt, CPA," accessed May 30, 2012
  12. Quad City Times, "Iowa auditor resigns to head accounting nonprofit," April 4, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Governing, "How Successful Are Lieutenant Governors Seeking the Governorship?," April 12, 2013
  14. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin April 2 election results," accessed April 3, 2013
  15. The Republic, "GOP education superintendent candidate's campaign blacklists 5 Wisconsin reporters," March 17, 2013
  16. Walworth County Today, "Wisconsin superintendent candidates to debate," March 12, 2013
  17. WisPolitics, "Pridemore Campaign: Pridemore vows to eliminate DPI mascot policy," March 28, 2013
  18. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Canvass Certification: 2013 Spring Election," accessed April 18, 2013
  19. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Bolling says major announcement set for March 14," February 7, 2013
  20. Richmond Times Dispatch, "Bolling on Cuccinelli: 'Nothing he does surprises me'," December 6, 2011
  21. The Washington Post, "GOP Fratricide in Virginia," December 1, 2012
  22. Washington Post, "Bill Bolling decides not to seek GOP nomination for VA governor," November 28, 2012
  23. The Roanoke Times, "Could Bolling run for governor as an independent?," November 28, 2102
  24. The Collegian, "Obama victory could cost Democrats Virginia governorship," November 15, 2012
  25. NBC 12- Decision Virginia 2013, "Transportation battle creates awkward political triangle," March 26, 2013
  26. Washington Post, "Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe: Virginia governor’s race holds the eyes of the nation," March 29, 2013
  27. Associated Press -, "Terry McAuliffe qualifies for Virginia June Democratic primary ballot," March 27, 2013
  28. Washington Post, "Aneesh Chopra to run for Virginia lieutenant governor," July 12, 2012
  29. The Washington Post, "Snyder raises $450,000 for lieutenant governor bid," January 15, 2013
  30. Washington Post, "Scott Lingamfelter announces run for lieutenant governor," June 28, 2012
  31. Washington Post, "Virginia Sen. Stephen Martin plans to run for lt. governor," June 20, 2012
  32. Village News Online, "State Senator Martin decides to run for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia," June 27, 2012
  33. Washington Post, "Jeannemarie Devolites-David running for lieutenant governor," September 24, 2012
  34. The Washington Post, "Sen. Mark Herring to run for attorney general in 2013," July 24, 2012
  35. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named vulnerable
  36. Washington Post, "Del. Bell to run for Virginia attorney general," December 5, 2011
  37. Washington Post, "The 5 best races of 2013," November 30, 2012
  38. Quinnipiac University Poll, "Sandy Response Sends New Jersey Gov Approval Sky-High, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Back Stricter Codes For Shore Rebuilding," November 27, 2012
  39. USA Today, "New Jersey Governor Christie announces re-election bid," November 27, 2012
  40. Asbury Park Press, "Christie, Buono get five other primary foes," April 2, 2013
  41. The Star-Ledger, "Buono qualifies for public matching funds in N.J. governor's race," February 4, 2013
  42., "Democrat Barbara Buono running for governor in NJ," December 11, 2012
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 New Jersey State Board of Elections, "Primary candidate list for 2013 Governor," accessed April 4, 2014
  44. The Associated Press "Governor Christie Announces Re-Election Bid," November 26, 2012
  45. The National Association of Attorneys General, "Home," accessed March 26, 2013
  46. Council of State Governments, "The Book of States 2012," Accessed October 17, 2012
  47. The Book of States, "Table 4.20: Qualifications for Office," last updated March 2012