Wanted: a Team at the Top

Whenever Democrat Edmund G. Brown Jr. left California during his second term as governor, the Republican lieutenant governor, Mike Curb, threatened to work all kinds of mischief in his role of acting governor--making appointments or unmaking appointments, that sort of thing. As it turned out, no real harm was done.

The state again has a governor and a lieutenant governor of different political alliance, but Californians are fortunate in this four-year period in that Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy is not the sort to play cute games with his position. Still, the machinations involved in having a governor of one political party and a lieutenant governor of the opposing party are something that California easily can forgo.

California has rarely seen the need for the No. 2 man to succeed its chief executive. In this century it has always been the case of one Republican succeeding another. The last time that it happened was in 1953, when Gov. Earl Warren resigned to accept President Dwight D. Eisenhower's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Goodwin J. Knight.

It is possible that one day a governor of one party will die or have to leave office and be succeeded by a political opponent, since the governor and the lieutenant governor are elected independently. Or a particularly unscrupulous lieutenant governor might actually create a certain amount of havoc when the governor was forced to be out of state.

This oddity would be corrected under a proposed state constitutional amendment that has passed the Senate, 27 to 4, and now is before the Assembly. The governor and the lieutenant governor would run their separate campaigns during the party nominating process, but would be elected as a ticket in the fall general election.

This change would assure California voters of some political continuity in the event of a vacancy in the governorship. It also would increase the likelihood that the governor would give his running mate something real to do, once they are in office, and better prepare him or her to assume the governorship should that be necessary.

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