Five states don’t have lieutenant governors—that could change this fall

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 16, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Arizona voters to decide whether to establish a lieutenant governorship
  2. It’s primary day in Alaska and Wyoming
  3. Revisiting Saturday’s election results in Hawaii

Arizona voters to decide whether to establish a lieutenant governorship

Arizona is one of five states without a lieutenant governor. But that could change in November depending on the outcome of the Arizona Lieutenant Governor Amendment.

If passed, the amendment would create the position of lieutenant governor, who would be elected on a joint ticket with the governor starting in 2026, and who would succeed the governor in case of a vacancy.

Currently, the secretary of state assumes the governorship if the current governor dies, resigns, or retires. After that, the order of succession falls to the attorney general, the treasurer, and then the superintendent of public instruction.

Apart from the question of succession, the amendment does not create any other duties for the lieutenant governor. That would be left to the legislature to decide.

Currently, 26 states elect their governors and lieutenant governors on the same ticket. Seventeen states elect the offices separately. In two states—Tennessee and West Virginia—the title of lieutenant governor is given to the state Senate President.

This is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, meaning both chambers of the Arizona Legislature approved the language before submitting it to the voters. State Sens. Sean Bowie (D) and J.D. Mesnard (R) introduced the amendment, which passed in the Senate 21-6 on March 2 and the House 43-15 on June 23.

This is the third time Arizonans have been asked to decide whether to establish a lieutenant governorship. Similar measures appeared on the ballot in 1994 and 2010. Both were rejected with 65 and 59% of the vote, respectively.

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It’s primary day in Alaska and Wyoming

Each week brings us closer to the end of the primary calendar with two states—Alaska and Wyoming—holding their nominating contests today, Aug. 16. Before we dive into the races, Alaska and Wyoming hold two very different types of primaries, so let’s take a look at how those races work.

This is Alaska’s first election cycle using top-four primaries, where every candidate in a race appears on the same ballot regardless of their party affiliations and the top-four finishers advance to the general election.

Voters approved the system—which is unique to Alaska and applies to congressional, state executive, and state legislative races—as a ballot initiative in 2020. 

Wyoming uses partisan primaries, where members of the same party run against each other to secure their parties’ nominations. 

Wyoming has an open primary system. Voters must be affiliated with a party to vote in a primary but can change their affiliations on the day of the primary depending on which party’s primary they want to participate in.

On to the races! Both states are holding primaries featuring Republican incumbents who voted against former President Donald Trump (R) during the impeachment proceedings following the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In Alaska, that’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who was one of seven Republicans in the chamber who voted to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection. Murkowski faces 18 candidates in the top-four primary: three Democrats, seven Republicans, and eight minor party or independent candidates.

Both Murkowski and another candidate, Kelly Tshibaka (R), have received noteworthy endorsements. U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) endorsed Murkowski. Trump and the Alaska Republican Party endorsed Tshibaka.

No other U.S. Senators who voted to convict Trump are running for re-election this cycle.

In Wyoming, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R), who voted to impeach Trump, faces four challengers, including Harriet Hageman, whom the former president endorsed. Six House Republicans who voted to impeach ran for re-election this cycle. Three lost to challengers endorsed by Trump. Two advanced to general elections. Democrats are also holding a primary for this race.

In Alaska, the U.S. House primary coincides with a special general election to fill a vacancy. Former U.S. Rep. Don Young (R) died earlier this year and the winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of his current term, which ends in January. The primary will decide who advances to the general election to compete for a full term in office.

Both states are holding elections for state executive offices. In Alaska, the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are on the ballot. In Wyoming, voters will decide contests for governor, secretary of state, and several other offices.

At the state legislative level, there is only one contested top-four primary in Alaska. This means four or fewer candidates filed to run in every other district, all of whom will advance to the general election. In Wyoming, there are 48 primaries. Of that total, 28 feature incumbents—all Republicans—representing 49% of incumbents running for re-election.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!

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Revisiting Saturday’s election results in Hawaii

As we mentioned last week, Hawaii held primaries last Saturday, Aug. 13. Here’s a quick look at how some of those races panned out.

At the congressional level, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D) and U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D) won their primaries. Schatz will face state Rep. Bob McDermott (R) in the general election for U.S. Senate. Results are still pending in the 1st Congressional District’s Republican primary to pick Case’s challenger.

The 2nd Congressional District was open, with U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele (D) leaving office to run for governor (more on that in a second). Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda (D) won her primary in the heavily-Democratic district and will face Joseph Akana (R) in the general election.

Hawaii will elect a new governor this November, as Gov. David Ige (D) is term-limited. Lt. Gov. Joshua Green won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, defeating former First Lady Vicky Cayetano, Kahele, and four others. 

There were several points of contention in the Democratic primary over issues including a telescope project and marijuana legalization.

Regarding the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project, a plan to construct a telescope at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano, Cayetano supported the project while Kahele opposed it. Green expressed disappointment over the handling of the project.

Regarding marijuana, Green and Kahele support recreational legalization while Cayetano is opposed.

Green will face former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) in the general election. Aiona previously ran for governor in 2010 and 2014.

Hawaii last elected a Republican governor in 2006 with the re-election of former Gov. Linda Lingle.

The state also held several nonpartisan primaries for trusteeships in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. One incumbent—Brendon Kalei’aina Lee—lost. This race was an incumbent v. incumbent contest. Lee, currently an at-large member, ran against Oahu Resident Trustee Kalei Akaka, who won the election outright after receiving more than 50% of the vote.

At the state legislative level, five Democratic incumbents lost in their primaries, the most compared to the past four election cycles. Three of those races were incumbent v. incumbent primaries, guaranteeing that at least one incumbent would lose.

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