Lieutenant governor is the worst job in politics


Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, left, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, right, debate for the GOP lieutenant governor race. (Khampha Bouaphanh/Star-Telegram via AP)

A famous politician once mused that the vice presidency wasn't worth a "warm bucket of piss." And we're sure Selina Meyer agrees.

Being lieutenant governor, though, is worth even less. And rarely has that been more true than these days.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) lost reelection on Tuesday, falling in a primary runoff to state Sen. Dan Patrick (R). This happened just two years after Dewhurst was supposed to be the Lone Star State's next senator but lost a primary to Ted Cruz.

But it's hardly the only bad thing that's happened to a lieutenant governor in the last couple of years. Indeed, the nation's No. 2s have truly been through the meat-grinder. Since the start of 2012, six lieutenant governors have resigned, six more have seen frontrunning campaigns for governor or Senate crumble, and three have opted not to run alongside their bosses for reelection.

Of the nation's 45 lieutenant governors (five states don't have one), these various foibles cover about 30 percent of them -- in just a two-year period.

And here's the real kicker: Very few of them are headed in the other direction. While being lieutenant governor is supposed to be a stepping stone to bigger things, it rarely is. According to a recent study by Governing magazine, lieutenant governors have a dismal record -- 17-38 -- over the last two decades when it comes to running for governor in their own right. There are six former lieutenant governors in the Senate, but two of them were appointed -- Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Walsh (D-Mont.) -- and only one -- Jim Risch (R-Idaho) -- jumped straight from that job to the Senate. (He was also, notably, a former care-taker governor.)

Here's a state-by-state look at how ugly it has been in recent years:

Alaska: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) was considered by many to be the GOP frontrunner to face Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) this year. Instead, he has been lapped in fundraising and endorsements by former state attorney general Dan Sullivan (R), who is now the clear GOP favorite.

Arkansas: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) was preparing to run for Senate this year as early as January 2013. Eventually, Rep. Tom Cotton (R) got in the race, and Darr opted to run for the U.S. House instead. But Darr's campaign finance scandal eventually led Democrats and Republicans to call for his impeachment. He dropped his campaign two weeks after launching it and then resigned in February.

Florida: Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) abruptly resigned her post in March 2013, a day after being questioned in relation to a federal gambling racketeering case. Carroll previously faced questions about falsified documents filed by her consulting firm while attempting to obtain funding from a program for minority-owned companies.

Illinois: Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) announced very early in 2013 that she would not seek reelection alongside unpopular Gov. Pat Quinn (D) this year.

Massachusetts: Lt. Gov. Tim Murray (D), who was previously considered a frontrunner to succeed Gov. Deval Patrick (D), resigned in June 2013 after a string of controversies. These include: some contradictory information about a 100-mile-per-hour car crash in which he was the driver and his ties to a later-indicted fundraiser. Murray's campaign paid $80,000 to settle civil charges related to the latter after he left office.

Minnesota: Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon (D) announced in January that she wouldn't seek another term with Gov. Mark Dayton (D). Prettner Solon made clear that she wasn't happy with the lack of responsibilities she has been afforded.

Missouri: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) was the GOP frontrunner for governor in 2012, but opted to seek reelection instead after a series of weird revelations that included his relationship with a former exotic dancer. Click that link for all the odd details, but here's the gist: Kinder admitted to frequenting a strip club in the 1990s, during which time he met a dancer. In 2011, he happened to meet this dancer again. He said he just stopped by a club to use the bathroom and then ordered a glass of wine.

Nebraska: Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy (R) resigned in February 2013. The Omaha World-Herald had reported that Sheehy made thousands of late-night calls to four different women with his state-issued cell phone.

New Mexico: Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) launched a 2012 Senate campaign in mid-2011, but withdrew by February 2012 after failing to gain any traction.

New York: Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy (D) is not seeking reelection alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this year, blaming health issues.

South Carolina: Lt. Gov. Ken Ard (R) resigned in March 2012 after being indicted and pleading guilty to seven charges. He was sentenced to five years of probation.

Texas: See above.

Utah: Lt. Gov. Greg Bell (R) announced in September that he would resign as soon as a replacement could be picked and confirmed by the state Senate. Bell cited his family's financial needs.

Virginia: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), having long bided his time awaiting an opening to run for governor, was thwarted again in 2013 after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) opted to run. The more-conservative Cuccinelli effectively cleared the field for the GOP nomination, and Bolling publicly entertained the idea of -- and later decided against -- running as an independent. His political career in the Virginia GOP is probably over now.

Corrected: This post initially said that Darr resigned in August. He resigned in February.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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