I would like to offer some thoughts regarding Delegate John Doyle's recent column in The Shepherdstown Chronicle where he proposes the creation of the Office of Lieutenant Governor.
Delegate Doyle points to the $14 million expense of this year's special elections and asserts that the creation of this new office would be the best way to avoid future problems regarding the succession process. He states that this newly created office should be combined with a current cabinet post (at the discretion of the governor) to obviate the need for an extra salary. He further states that the lieutenant governor would then be closely aligned philosophically with the governor.
Not necessarily. Depending upon how the office is defined and the process is established - perhaps the governor and the lieutenant governor could even be from different parties. This happens in some states that have a lieutenant governor. Conversely, if the candidate for governor chooses his or her own running mate, the choice then does not lie with the voters. While this methodology will prevent future elections I believe it will add cost to taxpayers going forward. It will make regular elections a little more expensive by adding an additional race, but the real cost would be in the office itself. Even if the office is not salaried, and despite protestations to the contrary, I predict that the new office of Lieutenant governor (especially since this person would "wear two hats") would inexorably lead to additional staff and other ancillary items to support the position at the expense of the taxpayer. I believe that there is a better way.
The better option is for the senate president to become the governor should the office be vacated. This would ensure that there would be no added expense either in staff, other miscellaneous items or in the cost of elections. Further, the senate president is virtually certain to have the experience to be governor. Delegate Doyle asserts that the senate president that becomes governor through the succession process would not have been elected by the people. However, the Senate President is an elected official who elected president of the senate by his or her peers - who are also elected by the people. Come to think of it, the vice president of the United States is also the president of the senate. Since we already have a president of the West Virginia State Senate, the sensible and practical solution is for this individual to be next in line to be governor.
West Virginia has never had a lieutenant governor. Therefore it is clear that the post is not needed except for the issue of succession. We need to resist the expansion of government. Instead of creating a new office that I believe would inevitably create an additional bureaucracy and burden to the taxpayer, the simple solution would be to create a succession protocol that makes the senate president the governor should the need arise.