A local state representative with some first-hand experience in gubernatorial politics has pre-filed a bill that would change the way slates are chosen for the state's top two offices.
Rep. Mike Harmon's bill would allow candidates for governor to wait until the general election to name their lieutenant governor running mates instead of having to pick someone before the primary as is currently required. Candidates would have four weeks after the May primary to name a candidate.
Harmon, who was a candidate for lieutenant governor on Republican Phil Moffett's ticket, said the current way puts both parties at a disadvantage because they are under pressure to pick someone without the benefit of much of the information that can only be gained during the primary. He likened the way the law would change the process to the way candidates for president can begin fundraising early on and wait until the general election to choose the candidate who gives them the best chance in the general election.
"Currently, before you can really get started and before you can raise any money, you have to declare that slate," Harmon said. "This way, you can see who is going to be the strongest candidate for governor and possibly lieutenant governor during the primary. I think it's something that would be beneficial to either party."
Harmon said during the most recent election, Republican David Williams could have bolstered his chances in the governor’s race by choosing Moffett as a running mate after the Republican primary. Williams won the Republican nomination and Moffett surprised many observers by coming within 10 percentage points of Williams in the primary. He believes the combination could have allowed the Republicans to capitalize on some of the Tea Party support that helped boost Moffett's candidacy.
The bill also would allow a candidate for governor to choose a replacement if a running mate dies, is declared ineligible, disabled in some way or ruled ineligible.
Harmon noted the problems created when Ernie Fletcher’s running mate, Hunter Bates, was ruled ineligible during Fletcher’s successful run for governor in 2003. Bates was ruled out when a judge determined he did not meet residency requirements.
Another part of the bill would prohibit legislative agents, or lobbyists, from contributing to a gubernatorial campaign.
Current law does not allow those who are sitting legislators to accept campaign money from lobbyists, which Harmon said puts aspiring candidates for governor or lieutenant governor like himself at a distinct disadvantage. Harmon and Moffett were able to out-perform some predictions in spite of being outspent almost 10-1 during the campaign.