Left: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Right: Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 

PHOENIX - The state's chief election officer said Monday that his interpretation of state law is that Republican Jan Brewer's reign as governor must end in January 2015, no matter what she and her lawyer say.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he understands Brewer believes that the two years she spent finishing off Democrat Janet Napolitano's term do not count toward the two-term limit voters mandated in 1992.

Brewer, elected in her own right at the 2010 election, is saying she could run again in 2014 if she wants, although she has not yet decided if she will.

Bennett, who was appointed to his post in 2009 when Brewer became governor, said he has not studied the legal arguments about a third term being advanced by Joe Kanefield, the governor's former legal counsel.

"But we read the constitution on its face that any portion of a term counts as a full term," he said. "And both of us will therefore have served two terms by the time the 2014 election occurs."

Bennett's comments came at the formal certification of election results, an event that normally would include the governor.

But Brewer was not present. She sent word to Bennett late Friday that she would be out of state through this coming Saturday.

That left Bennett to serve as acting governor for the ceremony.

Brewer press aide Matthew Benson would provide no specifics on the governor's travels, other than to say she is on "official business." He denied that she is one of several governors summoned to Washington this week to meet with House Republicans to lobby for a GOP plan for dealing with the federal "fiscal cliff."

Bennett's interest in Brewer's legal options in 2014 is more than academic: He already has formed an exploratory committee for governor for the 2014 election.

Bennett sidestepped a question of whether he would take legal action to keep Brewer off the ballot should she seek the nomination.

"I'm not going to comment on speculative questions about what she might or might not do," he said. "I'm focused on being the secretary of state."