Ariz. secretary of state to take over governor's job Hull replaces Symington, convicted in fraud case

September 05, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PHOENIX -- She is a fiscally conservative former schoolteacher with a broad streak of social moderation. She is the first female speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. And for most of the last year, she has been quietly waiting for the day she might become Arizona's 20th governor.

For Arizona Secretary of State Jane Dee Hull, that day is today, when she will take the reins from Gov. Fife Symington, who was forced to resign Wednesday after being convicted on federal charges of defrauding his lenders as a commercial real estate developer.

It is the second time in less than a decade that a woman in Hull's shoes has assumed the top job in a state that has no lieutenant governor. In 1988, Secretary of State Rose Mofford became the state's first female governor when she took over after the impeachment and ouster of Gov. Evan Mecham on charges of campaign finance irregularities.

But unlike Mofford, a 50-year state employee who took a caretaker approach and decided not to run for election in her own right, Hull, a 62-year-old Republican who moved to Arizona in 1962 after hearing a Barry Goldwater speech, is expected to plunge into what promises to be a rollicking campaign next year.

It will decide who wins the right to run the prosperous, fast-growing state and redeem an image darkened by a legislative corruption scandal in the early 1990s and the five-year investigation into Symington's personal finances.

"It's a tough moment, no matter what, when your governor's convicted on felony counts," said Lisa Graham Keegan, the state superintendent of public instruction and a longtime Hull ally. "What Jane brings to that for the moment is a whole lot of class."

Since Symington was indicted last year, friends say, Hull has been determined to do all she can to be ready to take over, without seeming to hover or gloat. Yesterday, she met privately with Symington about transition matters.

In an interview yesterday with KTVK-TV, Hull said of her situation: "It's difficult, but you know you find yourself having been in that saddle for 15 years as a legislator, you find yourself thinking, 'Well, the issues haven't changed that much, they've gotten a little more complicated.' "

Hull will assume the powers of office at 5 p.m. today, but will be officially sworn in Monday. She becomes the third female governor in the nation, joining Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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