|State Executive Offices|
| Governor • Lt. Governor • Secretary of State • Attorney General • Treasurer • Auditor • Superintendent of Schools • Insurance Commissioner • Controller • Agriculture Commissioner • Natural Resources Commissioner • Labor Commissioner • Public Services Commissioner|
|Elections by Year|
|2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2012 • 2011 • 2010|
- 1 Political parties
- 2 Current officeholders
- 3 Term limits
- 4 Vacancies
- 5 Elected vs. appointed
- 6 Governors who became presidents
- 7 Election history
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
In all states, the governor is directly elected, and in most cases has considerable practical powers (notable exceptions with very weak governorships include Texas), though this may be moderated by the state legislature and in some cases by other elected executive officials. They can veto state bills. The specific duties and powers vary widely between states.
|Quick facts about Governors|
The chart below is a breakdown of the political parties pertaining to the state executive office of governor. The total number of gubernatorial seats exceeds 50 because the list includes five territorial governors. For other state executive offices, click here.
|Counts current as of May 2015. If you see an error, please email us|
In 36 states, governors are subject to some type of term limits. Though many of these term limits are initially set by state constitutions, there are a growing number of ballot initiatives to change, and in some cases create, term limits.
Fourteen states do not have any limits on the number of terms a governor may serve. These states include:
- Main article: How gubernatorial vacancies are filled
Each state has some constitutionally prescribed method for filling vacancies in the office of governor. In the 44 states with a distinct lieutenant governor, that individual is the first in the line of succession, with the notable exception of Arkansas. Whether additional offices in the line of succession are named in the constitution or by statute varies among states.
Among those states without a traditional lieutenant governor, the primary successor to the governor varies. Officers first in line to succeed the governor in case of a vacancy are:
- The president of the state senate in three states (Maine, West Virginia*, Arkansas, Tennessee*).
- The secretary of state in three other states (Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming).
*In Tennessee and West Virginia, the lieutenant governor is also speaker of the State Senate. The officer serving in this dual role is first in the line of succession to the office of governor. Unlike most states, the lieutenant governors of Tennessee and West Virginia are not elected by voters but instead selected by the Tennessee General Assembly and West Virginia House of Representatives, respectively.
Overall, the constitutional rules for who comes second in line for the governor's seat are much more complex than that of first in line. Common second-in-lines include:
- The President of the Senate (Pro Tempore)
- The Speaker of the House
- The Secretary of State
However, seven states leave the decision specifically lax and another seven states decline any mention.
For more details regarding how gubernatorial vacancies are filled, click here.
Elected vs. appointed
The office of the governor is a constitutionally mandated office in all states. It is additionally statewide, directly elected and part of the Executive branch in all 50 states.
There are limited cases when the position is filled by someone who was not elected:
- Acting Governor: This term, not used in all states, applies to someone serving as governor who was not elected. When used, it applies to someone, often the lieutenant governor, temporarily discharging the office due to the short-term inability of the governor to do so. Usually, if the elected governor's inability to serve is permanent, her replacement will simply be addressed as 'governor'.
- Governor-designate: This term is rarely in use. It applies when there is a planned or anticipated vacancy in the governorship. For instance, in 2010, North Dakota's elected governor, John Hoeven, won a U.S. Senate seat. As 2010 was not a gubernatorial election year for North Dakota, when Hoeven won his race and prepared to leave the governor's office, he had to make an appointment to fulfill the gubernatorial term. Hoeven named his lieutenant governor, Jack Dalrymple, who had the title of governor-designate from Election Night 2010 until he actually took the gubernatorial oath of office the following month.
- Governor-elect: This term applies to an elected governor who has not yet taken the oath of office. Governors-elect do not yet have any of the powers or duties of the office, though they may be accorded some of the privileges and honors in anticipation of their taking office.
Governors who became presidents
The office of governor is sometimes used as a springboard to the presidency. President Rutherford B. Hayes, former Republican Governor of Ohio, was the first sitting governor to be elected as President of the United States. That year, 1876, the Democrats also nominated a governor, Samuel Tilden of New York, to run for the office. Seventeen presidents have previously served as governors. Those 17 candidates come from only ten states. Four presidents have come from the gubernatorial office of New York, three from Virginia and two each from Ohio and Tennessee. The others were from Arkansas, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas.
Approximately twice as many presidents have been governors at some point than have been senators. This is substantial since there are only half as many governors as senators at any given time. 2008 marked the first year since 1972 that neither major party candidates had served as governor.
The following table shows governors who have advanced to the presidency.
|Name||Term||Gov. State||Gubernatorial Term(s)||Elected while Governor|
|Martin Van Buren||1837-1841||New York||1829||No|
|James K. Polk||1845-1849||Tennessee||1839-1841||No|
|Rutherford B. Hayes||1877-1881||Ohio||1868-1872; 1876-1877||Yes|
|Grover Cleveland||1885-1889||New York||1883-1884||Yes|
|Grover Cleveland||1893-1897||New York||1883-1884||No|
|Theodore Roosevelt||1901-1909||New York||1899-1900||Yes|
|Woodrow Wilson||1913-1921||New Jersey||1911-1913||Yes|
|Franklin Roosevelt||1933-1945||New York||1929-1932||Yes|
|Bill Clinton||1993-2001||Arkansas||1979-1980; 1983-1993||Yes|
|George W. Bush||2001-2009||Texas||1995-2000||Yes|
- See also: Gubernatorial elections, 2015
- Main article: State executive official elections, 2014
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
A total of four governors were term-limited and ineligible to run for re-election. They were:
- See also: State executive official elections, 2013
- Main article: State executive official elections, 2012
Eleven states held regularly scheduled gubernatorial elections in the 2012 electoral cycle: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
Heading into the November election, Democrats held eight of the seats and the Republicans held three seats. Six incumbents sought re-election, three retired and two were term-limited. Of the six who ran, four were Democrats and two were Republicans.
The only party switch took place in North Carolina, where Lt. Governor Walter Dalton (D) lost to Pat McCrory (R). As of December 2012, the number of Democratic governors in the country was at its lowest since 2001. After the November 2012 election, there were 29 Republican governors and 20 Democratic, with one Independent.
- Main article: Gubernatorial elections, 2011
Three states, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, had regularly scheduled gubernatorial elections in the 2011 electoral cycle. A fourth state, West Virginia, held a special election following a court order.
In Kentucky and Louisiana, incumbents Steve Beshear (D - Kentucky) and Bobby Jindal (R - Louisiana) won re-election. Mississippi's Haley Barbour was prevented by term limits from running for re-election and his lieutenant governor, Republican Phil Bryant, won election as his successor. In West Virginia, acting Governor pro tem Earl Ray Tomblin won a special election to a 14-month term.
- Main article: Gubernatorial elections, 2010
Thirty-seven gubernatorial elections took place on November 2, 2010. That added up to the largest block of states to choose governors in a single election year. Leading immediately into the 2011 congressional reapportionment, the gubernatorial races became intensely contested. Four states that make up almost one-fourth of the entire U.S. House of Representatives - California, Florida, Texas and New York - were all in play.
In 15 of the seats up for election, the incumbent could not run again because of term limits, leaving 22 seats guaranteed to be open to non-incumbents. Of the incumbent but limited-out governors, eight were Democratic and seven Republican. When incumbents did choose to run, the primaries were good to them. Only in Nevada did an incumbent seeing re-election lose his own party's primary. (One of the term-limited governors, Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming, at one point indicated he planned to challenge his state's term limits law; while he did win his legal battle to have the state's term limits invalidated, he eventually declined to run for a third term.)
Praise or blame is extended to political parties for the economic, educational, health and other quality of life outcomes that result from the policies those parties enact into law. To better understand which political party enjoys power in each of the states, Ballotpedia has analyzed state government control from 1992-2013 using the concept of a "partisan trifecta." A partisan trifecta is defined as when a state's governorship and legislative chambers are controlled by the same political party.
The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?
At Ballotpedia, we explored these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.
Part 1: Partisanship
We identified the party holding each state's governorship for the majority of time in each year from 1992 through 2013. Across the country, there were 493 years of Democratic governors (44.82%) and 586 years of Republican governors (53.27%).
The trifecta analysis over this period shows a notable trend toward one-party control of state governments. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 states had trifectas while 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas hold sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years we studied. The number of states with trifectas doubled between 1992 and 2013.
The trifecta analysis also allowed us to identify seven states that have experienced dramatic changes in partisan state government control from the first 11 years of the study to the last 11 years of the study. Studying the partisan composition of state governments as we do also allows a clean way to assess whether a state is "moving red" or "moving blue."
|Figure 10: Visualization of Trifectas from 1992-2013 -- Alabama-Missouri|
|Figure 11: Visualization of Trifectas from 1992-2013 -- Montana-Wyoming|
|Figure 19: Visualization of State Partisanship (with Presidential voting) from 1992-2013 -- Alabama-Missouri|
|Figure 20: Visualization of State Partisanship (with Presidential voting) from 1992-2013 -- Montana-Wyoming|
|Infographic of Partisanship Results|
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Governor State Office."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- How gubernatorial vacancies are filled
- State executive offices
- Gubernatorial elections, 2012
- Gubernatorial elections, 2014
- Gubernatorial elections, 2015
- States with gubernatorial term limits
- Politico, Will a Governor Win the White House in 2016?, February 17, 2014
- Rutger's Center on the American Governor, Governors Who Became President," accessed February 18, 2014
- New York Times, The Governors’ Advantage in Presidential Races Is Bigger Than You Thought, June 15, 2011
- NPR "Republican Governors Gear Up For Election Gains," October 18, 2012
- Politico, "Dems sound alarm on state races," July 23, 2010