Arizona’s First Woman Governor, Jane Hull, Dies at 84

By Associated Press

April 17, 2020

Hull, the first woman to be elected governor and speaker of the House in Arizona, died within hours of her husband.

PHOENIX (AP) — Jane Hull, the first woman elected governor of Arizona and the state’s first female House speaker, has died. She was 84. 

Gov. Doug Ducey announced her death on Twitter on Friday, saying, “Governor Hull dedicated 25 years to principled public service.”

Jane Hull, a Republican, won approval of new funding for education and expanded health care for children of low-income families, but her record was blemished by a costly fiscal fiasco involving state subsidies for alternative-fuel vehicles. 

Former Gov. Jan Brewer said Hull and her husband, Dr. Terry Hull, died of natural causes within hours of each other.

“Jane worked tirelessly for our State, especially for AZ’s school children,” Brewer wrote on Twitter. “As my friend since 1981, I know AZ is better today because of her service. RIP.”

Hull served in the Legislature, including as the first female speaker of the Arizona House before being elected secretary of state in 1994. She was elevated to the governor’s office on Sept. 5, 1987, upon fellow Republican Fife Symington’s resignation following his conviction in a bank fraud case. Arizona has no lieutenant governor and the secretary of state is first in line of succession. Symington’s conviction was later overturned.

Hull handily won the 1998 general election for a full four-year term, making her Arizona’s first elected female governor. The state’s first female governor was Democrat Rose Mofford, a secretary of state also elevated to fill a midterm vacancy in the governor’s office but who did not run for a term of her own.

Hull’s Jan. 4, 1999 inauguration with four other women elected to statewide offices, collectively dubbed “The Fab Five,” gave the state an all-female line of succession.

Regarded as a conservative while serving as a legislator, Hull’s tenure as governor included moderate policy initiatives. She said while governor she was responding to broader responsibilities of a statewide office.

“I tried to steer the Titanic a little bit more toward the education of our kids, and I really put the focus on children. Unfortunately a focus costs money and that’s what we did,” Hull told The Associated Press in a December 2002 interview shortly before leaving office.

In her first year in office, Hull won legislative approval of a new school facilities funding program to resolve a decades-long political and legal fight over disparities among districts. She also won approval for subsidized health care for children from low-income families.

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Those and other Hull policy initiatives put her at odds with some conservative Republicans, and the former legislative leader was not reticent about using her powers as governor to prod lawmakers. Those tactics included calling the state’s part-time Legislature into a special session without first securing support for controversial proposals and vetoing unrelated bills to pressure lawmakers into taking action on her priorities.

In 2000, she got lawmakers to put a sales-tax increase for classroom education on the November ballot, and voters approved it. That issue, like others, saw her triumph despite opposition from some GOP lawmakers.

Hull’s attitude was that if a policy initiative was good for the state, “she had no qualms about fighting even people in her own party,” Jaime Molera, a former top Hull advisor whom she appointed as state superintendent of public instruction, said in a 2019 interview.

Molera recalled that the sales-tax increase got its place on the ballot during a special session that Hull called over the opposition of top GOP legislative leaders.

The special session “lasted a couple of months. But that was Jane Hull. Jane said we had to do it,” Molera said. “Candidly, she knew the power of the office, the responsibilities that it had, but also what you could do with that office.”

Hull’s successes on policy initiatives didn’t save her from stumbling badly that same year when she signed into law a bill that unexpectedly helped balloon the state’s costs for a subsidy program for alternative-fuel vehicles.

The legislation’s more generous subsidies and a federal rule change supported by the bill’s legislative sponsor resulted in the state’s expected price tag of up to $10 million rising to a feared cost of $680 million. At the urging of Hull and then-Attorney General Janet Napolitano, Hull’s eventual successor, lawmakers made changes that reduced its cost to $120 million.

“I took the blame because the buck stops here, but it was an amendment slipped into a huge bill in the middle of the night,” Hull later told the AP about the process that put the legislation on her desk.

Hull had emerged unscathed from an earlier scandal.

She was House speaker in 1991 when numerous lawmakers and lobbyists were indicted in a bribery sting. Hull stripped indicted committee chairmen of their posts and she helped push the tarnished lawmakers out of office.

“It wasn’t easy. These people had worked with me,” she said in a 2014 interview with the Arizona Republic. “I wanted to shake them and say, ‘How did you get into this?'”

Hull was born Aug. 8, 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri, and she grew up in Kansas, where she graduated from Kansas State University and worked as a school teacher. She married her husband, an obstetrician whose profession took him to the Four Corners region before they settled in metro Phoenix.

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