Arizona lawmakers missed their opportunity to invoke the "Dracula clause" when they impeached and ousted Republican Gov. Evan Mecham last year, and that means Mecham can run for office again, Republican Attorney General Bob Corbin said Friday in a formal opinion.
Virtually anyone with an interest in the outcome could challenge Cor-bin's opinion in court, but legislative leaders and other major political figures said Friday that they believe voters - not courts - should decide Mecham's fate once and for all.Mecham, who has already announced a 1990 gubernatorial bid, was out of town when Corbin released the non-binding opinion. His supporters said they were pleased at the decision and would press ahead with their legal challenge to the impeachment in any case.
Corbin had been among Mecham's chief accusers last year, but he told reporters Friday that his opinion was based on his best reading of the law, not his personal feelings or on any desire to smooth things over with the GOP's pro-Mecham wing.
The Republican-controlled Senate ousted Mecham on April 4, 1988, by two-thirds vote. But the vote was only 17-13 - three short of two-thirds - on a "Dracula clause" that would have driven a political stake through Mecham's heart by specifically disqualifying him from ever holding office again in Arizona.
In the year since the votes were taken, some legal scholars and Me-cham opponents began saying there might not have been any need for a specific vote on the "Dracula clause" because the state's constitution speaks of ouster and disqualification in the same sentence.
And even if a separate vote was required, they said, a simple majority such as 17-13 might be enough.
But Corbin said Friday that laws dating back to the year after the state's constitution first took effect show that those who wrote the constitution expected that there would be separate votes on ouster and disqualification.
And he said there is nothing in the constitution or the statutes to prevent lawmakers from requiring a two-thirds vote on disqualification, especially when the constitution gives the Senate broad discretion in impeachment cases.
Mecham was in Kansas City and unavailable for comment immediately, his staff said Friday.