This is the second in a series of posts about the role played by the lieutenant governor of Alaska. In this edition, I will examine Article III, Sections 10 and 11 of the Alaska Constitution, which involve the role of the lieutenant governor-elect in succession to the governor-elect, and the lieutenant governor permanently succeeding the governor. Again, the book Alaska’s Constitution, A Citizen’s Guide, has been an immense help to me as I prepared to write.
Article III, Section 10 discusses the succession to office if the governor-elect passes away, resigns, or is disqualified from holding office. In these instances, the lieutenant governor-elect can succeed the governor-elect and serve the full term as the state’s chief executive. However, if the governor-elect fails to assume the office for any other reason than those specifically stated in Section 10, than the lieutenant governor-elect becomes acting governor for a period of up to 6 months. If, after that period of time, the governor-elect still has not assumed office, the executive post devolves permanently to the acting governor.
Article III, Section 11 is devoted to resolving the dilemma of a permanent vacancy in the office of governor. In this instance, the lieutenant governor–if elected–permanently succeeds to the governor’s office. This particular situation has occurred twice in Alaska since statehood was granted in 1959. First, In 1969, Governor Walter Hickel resigned to become Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and was succeed by his secretary of state (recall that in 1970, the secretary of state’s title was changed to lieutenant governor in the state constitution). Second, in 2009, Governor Sarah Palin resigned and was succeed by her elected lieutenant governor to the office.
The eagle-eyed reader will note that so far, I have discussed only the role of an elected lieutenant governor as it relates to succession. However, the next post in this series of articles about the lieutenant governor of Alaska will discuss Section III, articles 12-14 of their Constitution, which, among other items, discusses the role of an appointed lieutenant governor and gubernatorial succession.