Ascent of a Woman

Meet Jane Hull. She's probably your next governor.

Early in February 1988, House Majority Whip Jane Hull paid an unofficial visit to the office of Secretary of State Rose Mofford to warn her that, given the anti-Mecham mood in the Legislature, Mofford was about to become acting governor.

Hull was right. On February 5, the Arizona House of Representatives impeached Governor Evan Mecham, and Mofford, the second in command, took over.

Today, Jane Hull is secretary of state, and J. Fife Symington III is facing a federal trial May 13 on 23 felony counts. By the end of the summer, chances are high that Arizona's sitting governor will be cutting his time in office short.

And Hull could be governor. She knows it may happen, but prefers not to speculate on the odds.

"My joke--only in small groups," says Hull, "is that my husband gets the paper in the morning and checks to see if I'm governor."

Jane Hull is strategically demure, fully aware that she's in the political spotlight. Mindful of the 11th Commandment of Arizona Republicans--thou shalt not covet the chair of a sitting GOP officeholder--she says she's focusing on her duties as secretary of state. She talks about issues outside the realm of her current office, but only when asked specific questions.

She doesn't lunch in public with more than one person at a time, lest it appear she's formed a kitchen cabinet.

Yet Hull doesn't shirk or look away at the suggestion she'll soon be governor. She wants to know: Is this profile for immediate publication, or are you going to save it? Apparently, other local media outlets are putting pieces on Hull in the can, anticipating her ascension.

And with good cause. For months now, Hull has quietly huddled with friends and advisers, planning a possible transition from the seventh floor up to the ninth floor of the state's executive office tower at 1700 West Washington.

Several politicos are in the wings, offering advice and possibly waiting to join her administration. One is Rick Collins, Hull's chief of staff while she was speaker of the House. He is now director of government relations for Samaritan Health System. Others include Sue Glaw, lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Republican Representative Sue Gerard, who now serves Hull's former north-central Phoenix district.

Although Jane Hull has been in office nearly 20 years, to date not much of substance has been written about her. Most articles merely caricature her as the Iron Lady, a one-dimensional Thatcheresque superheroine, bitchy enough to get the male members of the House to submit to her will.

All that from the grandmother of eight, a devout Catholic who's been struggling to learn how to play golf for the past six years.

Outside her neighborhood in Phoenix's central corridor, Hull's name recognition is surprisingly low, given the fact she holds statewide office. And even less is known about her politics.

Hull has avoided identification with strong positions for two simple enough reasons. First, the only statewide office she's held is the noncontroversial, largely administrative job of secretary of state. Second, she knows when to keep her mouth shut; she manages to give the appearance of candor while sidestepping political land mines.

An analysis of Hull's record in office--specifically, her 15 years in the Legislature--and interviews with Republican and Democratic legislators, pundits, consultants, lobbyists and Hull herself reveal a Goldwater conservative who, like Goldwater, has moderated her views over time.

Her stands aren't necessarily tooled for votes--particularly Republican votes.

She's not afraid to raise taxes. She does not support the elimination of the income tax. She actually says, on the record, that she supports public education. She waffles on abortion.

Early in her career, Hull made an outrageous remark urging harsh treatment for state prisoners. Chastened from the flap that followed, she hasn't uttered a sound bite of note since.

But she's survived the toughest of times in Arizona politics. The Mecham impeachment. AzScam. The Martin Luther King holiday debacle. Budget cuts and tax hikes and dissent so fractious she yanked a committee chairmanship from the cantankerous Don Aldridge.

Even her political opponents are willing to admit Hull's strengths: She may not set the Capitol afire, but she won't be an embarrassment to the state. She is a conservative without being an ideologue; she's tough but fair and universally admired.

Or is she?
Hard to tell, given Hull's delicate political position. Now even her formerly sworn adversaries have only good things to say about Hull--or nothing at all.

"No, no, I really can't think of anything," says Jim Irvin, Hull's Republican challenger in the 1994 secretary of state race, when asked what kind of person Jane Hull is.

"You know, she uses younger pictures, how's that?"
Former governor Evan Mecham: "If I couldn't say something positive, I wouldn't say anything. So I'll say nothing at all."

Richard Langerman, past president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and another presumed Hull enemy, given her longtime support of tort reform, says it all in his response to an interview request.

"I'm not going to say anything not nice about our next governor."

Jane Hull's coif belongs in the Arizona Historical Museum, Hair Wing, somewhere close to Ev Mecham's toupee and Rose Mofford's Dairy Queen do.

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