Democrat Rose Mofford, who began her government career 47 years ago as a secretary, was sworn in Tuesday as Arizona's first female governor, saying she's proud of her new job but sad about how she got it.
Mofford, 65, widely known as "Auntie Rose," commenced her term with wholesale housecleaning of the administration of Evan Mecham, the elected Republican governor convicted and removed from office Monday by a Senate court of impeachment.She ordered Mecham's personal staff of about 20 off the payroll as of April 15, withdrew the names of 45 Mecham appointees from Senate consideration for now and said she would review agency chiefs to see who would stay.
Mofford, who had been acting governor since Feb. 5, also promised to sign a tax increase, a policy opposed by the Mecham administration, but did not know how large it would be.
"I am relieved to have the `acting' qualifier removed from in front of the title of this office, and I am moving forward with enthusiasm," Mofford, who became Arizona's 18th governor, told a news conference.
"Little did I realize 47 years ago that this would happen," she told an invitation-only group of staff members in her protocol office earlier in the day.
Mecham, the first U.S. governor in 59 years to lose his job through impeachment conviction, told supporters Tuesday he isn't ready to give up politics.
"This is just another chapter in a book, and this book isn't near the end," he said. "I haven't yet determined what my course will be."
Also Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court allowed a pro-Mecham group to drop its challenge to the May 17 gubernatorial recall election. Concerned Arizona Voters
said it wanted to dismiss its case because it now sees the recall as the former governor's last hope for regaining his office.
However, Mecham attorney Jerris Leonard said he does not believe Mecham can run in any election until 1990 because the Senate removed him from the four-year term he began in January 1987.
The Supreme Court could decide this week whether a recall election is necessary since Mecham was the target.
It is possible the election could remove Mofford from office. Her chief of staff, Andrew Hurwitz, said he had been negotiating with acting Secretary of State Karen Osborne and Attorney General Bob Corbin in hopes of exempting Mofford from the recall.
Corbin believes the recall should be held as scheduled, but Osborne, a longtime Mofford aide, hopes to have it cancelled.
Mofford has refused to comment about the recall, and a state resign-to-run law could put her in jeopardy if she campaigns actively.
"I have no idea," she said when asked about her plans for the recall election. "The courts are going to have to decide it."