Janet Napolitano

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Former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano has resigned as Secretary of Homeland Defense to take a post running California’s University System. Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill will talk about Napolitano’s latest career move.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former governor Janet Napolitano last week resigned as secretary of homeland security. Napolitano stepped down to take a post as president of California's University system. ASU Pollster Bruce Merrill joins to us discuss the former governor's move. Good to see you again.

Bruce Merrill: Good to see you, Ted.

Ted Simons: Was this a surprise?

Bruce Merrill: Yeah, it was. I didn't know -- No reason I would, but it was certainly a surprise when I heard about it. Though keep in mind, at this time in the second term of a president's administration, many of the cabinet people do resign and will resign over the next several months.

Ted Simons: Was there any indication the administration wanted her out?

Bruce Merrill: Not that I've heard. Remember, she was the -- One of the very earliest supporters of the president, and they're very close friends. So my suspicion is that this is just one of those normal things where many of these people look around for what are they going to do for the rest of their life.

Ted Simons: Are you surprised that she figured out what she wanted to do was run the University of California system? That's a beast just like the homeland security was.

Bruce Merrill: It is, maybe more so in some respects. It wasn't a surprise for me in this sense. I worked with and talked with governors for the last years, she is certainly one of the brightest women I've ever met in Arizona. She's a very, very bright person. So I think she'll be comfortable in a University setting. She's very dedicated, that system has a lot of problems. She's going to have some real challenges. But I'm not at all surprised that she would be considered capable of doing this.

Ted Simons: Is she taking sometimes job people will tell you, take your next job with the next job in mind. Is she taking this job with another job in mind?

Bruce Merrill: I don't know what her long-term interests are. Certainly when you make this -- When you go to the presidency of a system like California, I'm sure she's made at least a five-year commitment if not longer. I mean, it's a big ship, it takes a big ship a long time to turn in any direction. She's going to have real challenges. I think what we do know is that it would seem to me she's decided that her immediate future is not in Arizona. She could have come back and run for governor and been very competitive and a Democratic primary. If McCain doesn't run in a couple of years, she is always wanted to be a senator. She might have done that. But by leaving Arizona and going to California, she really doesn't have much of a definable future in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Does she have a definable future in California politics?

Bruce Merrill: She could have. But my suspicion is she's going to be heavily challenged were the system over there. Education is in trouble. It's supported by taxpayers, and as you know the tax situation in California is very difficult. And so I think that that's not a place where I think that she would expect to have great successes that would propel her into running for governor over there or something.

Ted Simons: Or the U.S. senate.

Bruce Merrill: Or the U.S. senate. Although it's certainly possible. Would I never underestimate or I think she'll do a job.

Ted Simons: What about the Supreme Court vacancy. She's still a name there, isn't she?

Bruce Merrill: I think that's the most likely, if she were to leave. It may very well be that the president will have a couple of more appointments before he leaves. She's very close to him, she's a very fine attorney. My suspicion is that she would have a real shot at that. And that would -- It's such an important job. That's one that probably she could leave after a couple of years and not be criticized that she's just jumping ship for something else.

Ted Simons: Looking back, you mentioned Arizona. I know some democrats in Arizona are still upset with her for leaving. Some Republicans most Republicans in Arizona are upset with her just, you know, because she's a Democrat, they're a Republican, just out of formality here. Looking back, was leaving Arizona, the governor's office for this position in Washington, was that a smart move on her part?

Bruce Merrill: It was probably smart -- I would argue that's one of the most important positions for the whole country. National security as we've seen has been a major and growing concern. To be tapped to run that operation is a real tribute to her, I think, and I think it would have taken something like that to get her to leave Arizona.

Ted Simons: Does she have a legacy as homeland security director?

Bruce Merrill: I think so. I haven't seen a lot of criticism. I think there's pressure because of the Boston bombings now, but I think she's well respected. People forget with Janet, former governor Janet Napolitano, she was one of the most popular governors we've had I've been polling on every governor for 40 years, she got the highest ratings of any governor. And I think -- I don't agree with people who say she has no legacy here. I think she's done a lot for particularly education in Arizona, she did the all-day K, she was a real friend to the Universities and building the Universities as the driving engine of the economy. So I think she's done a lot.

Ted Simons: That being said, could Janet Napolitano right now emerge and make it in Arizona state politics?

Bruce Merrill: I doubt it. And for one reason, I guess we should be delicate about it, but because even though she was -- Had such an important job with national security, it was -- She was close to Obama. Obama is not very popular here. My guess is if I did a poll right now because of that association, that she would be much, much lower than she was when she left.

Ted Simons: Isn't that interesting. Last question. Is this the last we've heard as a public person? The last we've heard of Janet Napolitano?

Bruce Merrill: I doubt it. My guess is that she'll have challenges at the University of California system, but it's a bigger state, it's a Democratic state, where being a Democrat won't hurt her as much. There's a possibility the Supreme Court -- I don't think you've heard the last of Janet Napolitano.

Ted Simons: Bruce, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

Bruce Merrill: Good to be here, Ted.

Bruce Merrill:Pollster, ASU;

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