When a State’s Governor Resigned

In 1996, the Governor of Arkansas, Jim Guy Tucker, resigned his position in the face of accusations of corruption. Tucker, unlike Puerto Rico’s Ricardo Rossello, had actually been convicted of corruption — specifically, conspiracy and mail fraud. He immediately announced that he would resign within two months, though he claimed that he was innocent. Protesters gathered outside the statehouse, and the prosecutor called his conviction “a tribute to the people of Arkansas.”

Tucker was not the first sitting governor to be convicted of corruption in a state. He was, in fact, the tenth. And he offered to resign as soon as he was convicted, without any protests in the streets.

But that was not the end of the drama.

Tucker changes his mind

Two months after his announcement, as government officials prepared to swear in Lt. Governor Mike Huckabee, Tucker changed his mind. He announced that he would not resign after all. He was appealing his conviction, and he decided that he wanted to wait for the results of his appeal to make the decision about his future.

If he were exonerated on appeal, he figured, there would be no need for him to resign. He proposed that Huckabee should serve as acting governor while the appeal went on.

Huckabee refused. “The people demand it,” he said, threatening to bring impeachment proceedings against Tucker if he did not step down as promised.

Tucker held out for four hours. At one point, he sent a letter saying that he would not resign at all, nor even take a temporary leave of absence. Shortly thereafter, he agreed to step down.

Huckabee was sworn in on the evening of the day he had been scheduled to become Governor of Arkansas.

State or territory

In a state or in a territory, the forced resignation of a governor is bound to make headlines. In a territory or a state, scandals lead to drama.

Some observers continue to suggest that the drama of Rossello’s resignation will prevent Puerto Rico from achieving statehood. History suggests otherwise.

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