LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thoughts on Delaware’s next lieutenant governor

The office of lieutenant governor of Delaware may be compared to the office of vice president of the United States. The lieutenant governor shall assume the duties of the chief executive, the governor, in the event of his or her resignation, demise or incapacity, plus, preside over the Senate and the Board of Parole and Pardons, and only cast a vote in the state Senate in the event of a tie.

Accordingly, it is not a proactive position of power, per se. More accurately, it is a position of influence. So, the question arises as to what qualities and attributes … beyond intelligence, honesty, and integrity … are desirable in the next lieutenant governor for Delaware:

First, a working knowledge of the state and U.S. Constitutions.

Second, dedication to the greater public interest.

Third, the ability to serve in an advisory capacity and support the governor.

Fourth, good communications skills, coupled with a positive attitude.

Fifth, adaptability and management skills.

Sixth, insight and creativity.

As state government, public issues and the common problems Delaware faces become more complicated, a governor may increasingly delegate authority to or seek advice from the lieutenant governor.

The next lieutenant governor should be someone who is capable of wise counsel, and able to assume the office of governor, if and when necessary, with a minimum of difficulties.

However, since, under Delaware’s Constitution, the governor and lieutenant governor are separately elected, there is a possibility they will hail from opposing political parties.

In that event, the lieutenant governor simply presides over the Delaware Senate and the Board of Pardons and Parole, casts a vote in the event of state Senate ties, collects a salary plus benefits in excess of $80,000, and may frequently inquire as to the health and welfare of the sitting governor of the opposing party — unless we are fortunate to have two exceptional people of opposing political parties who place the greater public interest above First State partisan politics as usual.

If Delaware voters wisely elect a duo from the same political party, as has happened every four years since 1988, then, the lieutenant governor may work in tandem with the governor to promote a strong and effective state government that serves all the citizens of Delaware.

Finally, as the office of lieutenant governor, while not primary, is still important in the effective governance of Delaware, the state Legislature may need to rethink the issues of succession constructively for the 21st Century.

Given the recent state constitutional issue of the unfillable vacancy created by the resignation of then-Lt. Gov. Mathew P. Denn (now Attorney General Mathew P. Denn), a Delaware constitutional amendment to roughly mirror the U.S. Constitution should be considered.

Unless there is also a constitutional amendment to allow the nomination of a new lieutenant governor by the sitting governor with state Senate confirmation, an alternative may be a change in the order of succession in the event of a vacancy of the governor’s chair.

Currently, an unelected and appointed Secretary of State would be the next in line for governor. Perhaps the constitution should also be amended to provide for the Speaker of the House, followed by the Senate President Pro Tem, both elected officials, to succeed the governor in the event there is no sitting lieutenant governor?

Ultimately, it is up to the people to influence their state representatives and senators in deciding this question.

Dave Graham

Editor’s note: Dave Graham, of Smyrna, was the 2014 Independent Party of Delaware candidate for attorney general, the 2012 Independent Party of Delaware-endorsed Republican write-in candidate for governor, the 2010 Republican write-in candidate for Attorney General, a 2008 filed Republican candidate for governor, and a 2004 candidate in the Republican primary for governor.

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