Did You Know: Arizona Had Two Governors At The Same Time

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 2:03pm
Updated: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 2:05pm
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Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/KJZZ
A poster shows the rivalry between Thomas E. Campbell, Republican, and George W.P. Hunt, Democrat.
(Courtesy of John Larsen Southard)
On Jan. 27, 1917, Campbell officially took the governor's seat.
John Larsen Southard
The competition between the two candidates was heated as Hunt refused to step down.

Every state has one governor, right? Well, that wasn’t the case at one point in Arizona.

The 1916 gubernatorial election results were close — really close. In fact, when incumbent George Hunt lost to challenger Thomas Campbell, Hunt refused to concede. Did You Know… that for nearly 30 days Arizona had two governors?

“George Hunt is a well-known politician," said Luke Bate, a historian at the Arizona Capitol Museum. "He’s still well known to this day, being the first elected governor of the state of Arizona. He served in a number of legislative groups and committees prior to becoming a state.”  

“Thomas Campbell had a parallel career," Bate said. "He had served in Territorial and state offices. He’d been a member of the Arizona tax commission. So, they were political adversaries. And they were both well known, both prominent.”

As we walk through the Capitol Museum, Bate describes the race. It was almost a popularity contest. Both men were respected. Campbell was a native of the state while Hunt was a two-time governor. But Campbell attacked Hunt during the campaign for increasing taxes and being disconnected from the people, and it looked like the attacks worked.

“Thomas Campbell wins the popular vote, but George Hunt wants to contest this result," Bate said.

That’s because the final count had Campbell winning by a margin of just 30 votes.

"Hunt challenged that decision, saying that there were instances of vote fraud that hadn’t been resolved. Most of his argument basically had to do with the fact that people voted twice.”

David Berman is with ASU’s Morrison Institute. He wrote a book about Governor Hunt.

“They voted the straight party ticket which covered all the offices once you put that X in the circle and they voted for Campbell," Berman said.

Ultimately, Campbell was declared the winner. The new governor took the oath of office and so did Hunt. Berman said Hunt was to step down on Dec. 30, but instead he locked himself in the governor’s suite. He refused to let Campbell take over while his challenges were being decided in court. On Jan. 27, 1917, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Campbell the Governor. Hunt stepped down, but he continued to challenge the election results.   

“Didn’t do very well in the courts until way in December of that year and finally got the State Supreme Court to reverse lower court," Berman said.

The state Supreme Court ruled that ballots with X marks for both gubernatorial candidates should be thrown out. It was almost a whole year later when Hunt was declared the official winner in 1917. He finished the remainder of the two-year term.

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