Term's the Limit
By Ken Rudin
Question: Virginia is the only state where the governor cannot succeed himself. Is there likely to be a change in the state constitution to allow the governor to seek a second term? Mike Kuzemchak, Boynton Beach, Fla.
Sporadic efforts to amend Article V of the Virginia constitution, which prevents the governor from running for reelection, have failed. In 1996, the most recent such amendment offered in the House of Delegates died in committee. Since Virginia's constitution was ratified in 1851, only one person has served more than a single term: Mills Godwin, elected governor in 1965 as a Democrat, sat out the next four years and came back to win again in 1973 as a Republican. Former governor George Allen (R), who won in 1993 and had to retire last year, might seek his old job in 2001 unless he runs for Robb's Senate seat in 2000.
See: Article V, Section 1 of the Virginia State Constitution
On Election Day 1990, many who were expected to breeze to another term such as Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) won by the skin of their teeth. Meanwhile, voters in Oklahoma, California and Colorado passed term limits for members of Congress.
The disillusionment with Congress continued unabated in 1992 and 1994, fueling successful term-limit initiatives in over 20 states. Limiting terms was also a key component of the GOP "Contract With America" in 1994, which was signed by more than 300 House Republican candidates. Their argument was simple: After 40 years of a Democrat-controlled House, it was time to rid Washington of dead-weight career politicians and bring in "citizen legislators" who would leave voluntarily after three terms or so.
While the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that states may not limit the tenure of members of Congress, 18 states have passed initiatives limiting terms of state legislators. According to U.S. Term Limits, more than 2,000 cities and towns have installed limits on elected officials, including New York, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco; all in all, there are term limits on more than 15,000 local officials.
South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis, a leading advocate of limits, correctly observed that asking Congress to vote for term limits is a bit like asking the chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders.
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© Copyright 1998 Ken Rudin