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Napolitano became first woman to Chair the National Governor’s Association at the 2006 annual meeting, a position used by both Bill Clinton and Howard Dean as a lanching pad into national politics. After an extremely successful first term during which Janet moved forward strongly her agenda to create an all day Kindergarden program and stood fast against many ill-considered and mean-spirited legislative proposals (giving her a record for use of the Governor’s veto). She enjoys a very healthy level popularity that has scared all credible challengers away from the Gubernatorial race, leaving a field of political midgets on the GOP ticket.

What could be next for our extraordinary Governor? She was short-listed as a Vice-Presidential nominee by the Dean campaign in 2004, and likely was on the list of other Presidential campaigns, as well. It is widely expected that she will likewise be short-listed as a possible VP again in 2008. However, I rather doubt that Janet would actually accept even such a historically significant nod; rather, I think she is much more likely to take a position in a Democratic Administration where she felt she could do some real work; perhaps as Attorney General.

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I suspect that Janet is more likely to complete her term of office, and if she has ambitions for higher office still, she’ll run for President in her own right. She’s still a young woman and can wait for her time to come.

In the more immediate future, what will Janet’s second term be like? It is as much a sure thing as exists in politics that she will defeat any Republican nominated to oppose her. Assuredly, much effort will be spent defending and extending the gains of her first term, and ameliorating the damage done by neccessary compromises with a ideologically poisoned GOP right wing.

Certainly, if Janet’s platform as Chair of the NGA (pdf download) is any guide, it will continue to center on the importance of education in keeping America economically healthy through innovation. Part of that vision is must certainly be to continue expanding support, funding, and innovative partnerships in Arizona’s state university system. Also critically important to educational success, and certainly cruicial to Janet’s children-centered agenda, is early education. Now that an ‘all day K’ program is in place, the next logical step to improve education, and to help parents struggling with growing work responsibilities, is a state-wide ‘pre-K’ program.

Several states already have universal ‘Pre-K’ programs, and more than half of Governors are pushing to implement state-supported preschool programs. I suspect that Janet will set her sights on making universal ‘Pre-K’ available to Arizona parents as well.

As part of creating a child-friendly Arizona, Janet should also focus on delivering basic healthcare to all of Arizona’s children, given authoritative studies pointing to significant cost savings to the states from doing so.

Creating a generation of healthier, better-educated children who are given the best possible shot at a good education and a healthy adulthood is a legacy that any Governor could be proud of. Napolitano is well on the way, but what she really needs is 4 more years.

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