- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Four people have signed up to be Arkansas’ next lieutenant governor, and one of them wants to be the last.

Arkansas’ political filing season ends Monday, and if a state representative who is seeking the office has his way, this would be the final time the state has a lieutenant governor’s election.

“My new tagline is, ‘I’m Andy Mayberry, and I want to be your next and last lieutenant governor,’” the East End Republican said.

This year’s campaign comes amid questions on whether the office is necessary. Former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr resigned a month ago over ethics violations tied to his office and campaign spending, marking the fourth time since 1992 that the office holder didn’t complete a term. Legislators voted last month, and the governor agreed, to let the office remain vacant until after the November general election.

The extended vacancy could leave some candidates not only campaigning to hold the post, but also campaigning for its continued existence.

The other three lieutenant governor candidates, Republicans Tim Griffin and Debra Hobbs and Democrat John Burkhalter, are divided over whether the office should remain. Hobbs says she is open to the idea of the lieutenant governor being combined with another state constitutional office, while both Griffin and Burkhalter say the post has value since the officeholder is next-in-line to serve if the governor leaves office.

“It needs to be voted on by the entire state, because it happens,” Burkhalter said. “It’d be a dreadful event if something happens to our governor, but that’s the guy or gal that’s going to take control.”

Before Darr, three of the state’s previous four lieutenant governors didn’t complete their entire terms. Jim Guy Tucker replaced Bill Clinton as governor after Clinton’s election as president in 1992, Mike Huckabee replaced Tucker after Tucker’s Whitewater conviction in 1996 and Win Rockefeller died in office in 2006.

As it is structured now, the lieutenant governor’s is mostly a ceremonial position: presiding over the Senate and casting the tie-breaking vote in the 35-member chamber. The officeholder serves as acting governor whenever state’s highest-elected official is out of town.

Still, most of the lieutenant governor candidates say that whoever is elected to the office can elevate the post’s prescribed duties listed in the state’s constitution and use the office to spotlight other problems facing the state. Bill Halter, in his four years, successfully promoted the creation of a state lottery to fund college scholarships.

Mayberry has suggested combining the lieutenant governor’s job duties with the secretary of state’s office but let the governor retain his powers when he travels outside Arkansas. The Senate president could preside over the chamber, Mayberry said.

Eliminating the office has been tried before. In 2011, then-House member Keith Ingram, now the Democratic Senate minority leader, proposed dropping the office and transfering its powers over to the Senate president. The state land commissioner’s office was also targeted for deletion in Ingram’s proposal, but his measure never escaped a House committee.

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Associated Press reporter Andrew DeMillo contributed to this story.

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Follow Christina Huynh on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ckhuynh

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