Voters elect Bennett to Arizona’s No. 2 position

By Felecia Fonseca
Flagstaff, Arizona (AP) November 2010

Republican Ken Bennett will continue as Arizona’s secretary of state.

Bennett, who was appointed to the position when Jan Brewer was elevated to governor last year, defeated Democrat Chris Deschene in Tuesday’s election. Results late Tuesday showed Bennett had nearly 59 percent of the vote to Deschene’s 41 percent, with about 25 percent of precincts outstanding.

“It was a good race, but I’m obviously pleased with how the voters have spoken,” Bennett said from a Phoenix hotel where he gathered with other Republicans. “We’re going to work hard to continue to focus on protecting Arizonans’ elections and the integrity.”

The secretary of state is the state’s chief election officer, a regulator for consumers and succeeds the governor if there’s a vacancy. A proposition on Tuesday’s ballot sought to make the line of succession more clear, but voters rejected it.

Bennett campaigned on what he said was a diversity of experience that included eight years in the Legislature and stints on the Prescott City Council and state Board of Education. He’s also a businessman.

Bennett said he wants to review the voting system to make it more secure and convenient for Arizonans. That could include making ballots available from all precincts in a county at voting centers.

“We’ll see if we can come up with a way to improve on what I think are already good, fair and honest elections in Arizona,” he said.

He faced criticism from Deschene, a former Marine major who was elected to the state Legislature in 2008, over the vetting of Green Party candidates. Bennett said his office had no authority to investigate whether the candidates allegedly were recruited by Republicans to siphon votes from Democrats.

A win for Deschene would have made him the first American Indian elected to a statewide office. Deschene had touted what he said was a proven record in ensuring voters’ rights, as well as managing budgets and staff.