As you now know, Tuesday night was a stunning upset for Democrats across the country. In a burst of mid-term politician fatigue, Americans put majority power in the hands of the U.S. Senate and firmed up the GOP stronghold in the House.
Arizona's Republican victory shouldn't have been as shocking to anyone, since the state's usually red and all the high offices in state government already have been stocked with right-wingers.
After Tuesday's election, all of Arizona's top state government slots -- from governor to mine inspector -- are still inhabited by Republicans. That's on top of a GOP-majority state House and Senate.
How will the continuation of single-party rule in state government affect your life over the next four years?
Your guess may well be as good as ours. If you're a lib, you may have a right to be fearful. And if you're a righty, you may be guilty of overestimating the expected benefits of your party.
Most of the GOP-held positions are little more than bully pulpits -- you may be annoyed by the rhetoric and minor changes coming out of some state offices in the next few years, in other words, but substantive impact could be minimal. That's looking on the bright side, of course. Here's what Arizona law says about the actual powers of your leaders:
* Mine Inspector -- Republican Joe Hart re-elected. We chatted with Hart in August and found he really does inspect mines. But that's about the extent of his powers.
* State Superintendent of Public Instruction -- Quiet-type Republican Diane Douglas seems to have beaten out David Garcia. But her powers are limited primarily to investigating financial malfeasance at schools and enforcing rules made by the State Board of Education. Disgraced politician Tom Horne, when in the post, created headlines for himself by focusing on the Tucson Unified School District's Hispanic-studies program, but that was in reaction to a state law. (Addition: One of our longtime readers, Dennis Gilman, reminded us that Horne authored the law and helped get it passed in the Legislature, then declared the Tucson district out of compliance with the law -- the point being that it can be a very influential post). John Huppenthal also used the position as a bully pulpit, railing against Common Core standards. However, as a complicated flow chart by a group critical of Common Core shows, the state Superintendent has essentially no input on how the standards are implemented in Arizona. Yet Douglas (who's victory is predicted, but not official) is considered by many to be a potential political wild card who may use her powers to block federal funding to schools or attempt to bring Scripture to science classes. If she tried something radical, would her moves be checked by the Legislature or Governor? We left a few messages for political experts this morning, but they're probably all sleeping in after a late night watching election results. We'll update this post with their comments when they call back.
* State Treasurer -- Jeff DeWit. Democrats didn't offer DeWit an opponent, saving their supporters' money. The Treasurer doesn't really do that much under Arizona law in terms of things that might have an acute impact on citizens, despite a long list of duties. At the Republican election-results party last night, someone close to Doug Ducey, the governor-elect and former state treasurer, summed up the treasurers' primary duty: "Cashing checks."
* State Secretary of State -- Michele Reagan, whose victory over longtime Democratic Arizona politician and son of an a former governor Terry Goddard was a surprise to some. She replaces Republican Ken Bennett. This is mainly an administrative position -- unless something happens to the governor, in which case the secretary of state moves into the top slot.
* State Attorney General -- Mark Brnovich, the political upstart who kicked out the scandal-plagued Tom Horne during the August primary, then kicked Democrat Felecia Rotellini's political butt on Tuesday. The state AG has a number of important powers as the "top cop" and top attorney. Even if you're not a running potentially fraudulent business schemes, the state AG's support or opposition to various policy issues -- combined with the real power to take cases to court and make legally binding interpretations of state law -- could affect you.
* Governor -- Doug Ducey. Very powerful office. Appoints judges and state administrators. Has strong bully pulpit on all sorts of issues. Signs or vetoes laws sent by the state Legislature.
* State Legislature -- Makes, amends, and (rarely) repeals laws. The Republican majority will continue -- but without a super-majority that would allow it to override a governor's veto.
* Arizona Corporation Commission -- Tom Forese and Doug Little replace two other Republicans, keeping an all-GOP, five-member commission. The Commission sets policies that affect citizens using its utility-regulatory powers. The issue of solar power has brought more public attention to the ACC -- and exemplifies the potential differences of having Republicans or Democrats filling the Commission's seats. Last year, the Commission voted to charge a fee to new solar customers, helping the power company Arizona Public Service.
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