State executive offices

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State Executive Offices
GovernorLt. GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorSuperintendent of SchoolsInsurance CommissionerControllerAgriculture CommissionerNatural Resources CommissionerLabor CommissionerPublic Services Commissioner
Elections by Year

State executive offices represent a state's executive branch, charged with implementing and enforcing the laws made by state legislatures. The governor is the chief executive of a state's government, and other executive officers ordinarily report to him or her.

Many executive offices, especially prominent ones like attorney general and secretary of state, are established in a state's constitution, which provides the basis for their authority and a description of their duties. Other offices commonly included in a state's constitution are treasurer and superintendent of schools. Other executive officers are established by statute rather than the state constitution. Such offices often include auditor, agriculture commissioner, natural resources commissioner, insurance commissioner and others.

Executive officers are ordinarily either elected or appointed by the governor. In some cases, officers are chosen by the state legislature or supreme court.

State office features

See also: Chart of state executive officers

There are an estimated 14 state executive offices in the United States. However, not all offices exist across all states. Of the 14 offices, seven appear in all 50 states, including: governor, attorney general, superintendent of schools, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner, labor commissioner and public services commissioner.

Others, however, vary from state-to-state.

Political party breakdown

The chart below is a breakdown of the political party landscape of the United States' 13 distinct state executives offices.

Office Democratic Party Democratic Republican Party Republican Independent Independent Nonpartisan Total seats
Governor 20 33 2 0 55*
Lt. Governor 13 31 0 0 44
Attorney General 22 27 0 1 50
Secretary of State 20 26 0 1 48*
Treasurer 13 22 0 13 48
Controller 4 6 0 3 13
Auditor 9 14 0 12 35
Superintendent of Schools 3 6 0 40 50
Insurance Commissioner 5 8 0 37 50
Agriculture Commissioner 1 11 0 38 50

Natural Resources Commissioner 1 3 0 46 50
Labor Commissioner 0 3 0 49 54
Public Service Commissioner 9 38 0 148 201
Total 120 (16%) 219 (29.3%) 2 (0.3%) 299 (40%) 748
Current as of May 2015

*Note: The total number of seats in this row includes officeholders in American territories covered by Ballotpedia.

Seat totals for each office may not match up with partisan totals due to current vacancies.



See also: State executive official elections, 2015

Three states are holding state executive elections in 2015. A total of 25 state executive seats are up for election. The general election in Kentucky and Mississippi will take place on November 3, 2015, with primaries held on varying dates throughout the year. Louisiana's primary will take place on October 24, 2015, with a runoff election on November 21, 2015, if no candidate in a race earns at least 50 percent of the vote.


See also: State executive official elections, 2014

Forty-three states held state executive elections in 2014. A total of 2225 state executive seats were up for election. The general election was held on November 4, 2014, with primaries held on varying dates earlier in the year.


See also: State executive official elections, 2013

Wisconsin held an election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction on April 2, 2013. Two other states, New Jersey and Virginia, held state executive elections in 2013. A total of five state executive seats were up for election. The general election took place on November 5, 2013.


See also: State executive official elections, 2012

Twenty-two states held state executive elections in 2012. A total of 37 state executive seats and 46 down ballot seats were up for election. The general election in most states was held on November 6, 2012. Primary elections, however varied from state to state. (Main article: State executive official elections, 2012)


See also: State executive official elections, 2011

Four states held executive official elections in 2011. A total of 13 state executive seats and 13 down ballot seats were up for election. Positions included gubernatorial offices in four states and state commissioners in three states. The general election in most states was held on November 8, 2011. Primary elections, however varied from state to state and took place in May, August and October. (Main article: State executive official elections, 2011)

Common state executive offices

Click on each tab for a brief description and links to office-specific overviews.

See also: Governor

The Governor is the chief executive of a state and position established by all 50 state constitutions. In every state, the governor is a popularly elected office. New Hampshire and Vermont elect a governor every two years; all other states hold gubernatorial elections every four years. By many state constitutions, the governor is the executive officer in whom the executive power of the state is formally and legally vested. The legal and practical extent of governors' powers varies significantly across states; Hawaii and Maryland have notably powerful governors, while the Governor of Texas is a remarkably weaker office.

The governor is responsible for implementing the laws created by state legislatures and the rulings of state courts. He or she oversees individual state executive departments and other state executive officers, including the attorney general, secretary of state, and others. The governor is the commander-in-chief of the state's National Guard and may deploy it during a state of emergency. Like the president of the United States, governors traditionally have the power to pardon criminals or commute their sentences.

Governors also frequently have substantial emergency powers, such as convening extraordinary legislative sessions, declaring a state of emergency and officially asking the federal government for assistance, spending funds set aside for emergencies, and relocating the seat of government if needed. Many of a governor's strongest powers require the advice and consent of the state Senate before they may be deployed. Under certain circumstances, some states allow their governors to make recess appointments and issue executive orders during legislative recesses that will stand until the legislature reconvenes.

In some states, the governor has considerable power to appoint judges and inferior executive officials and to make vacancy appointments for any other executive office that becomes vacant. Governors will also often push state legislatures to enact their policy priorities; often, they are constitutionally required to present an annual address to the legislature outlining policy priorities and recommendations and to submit a budget for legislative consideration.

All governors have the power to veto bills passed by the state legislature, and in six states (Indiana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Nevada, North Carolina and Rhode Island) the governor may use a line-item veto to strike certain parts of a bill without rejecting it wholesale.[1]

See also: Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor exists in 45 states and is an elected position in 43 of those states. The lieutenant governors of Tennessee and West Virginia are chosen by the state legislature, with whatever Senator is elected President Pro Tem automatically also becoming the lieutenant governor. In the five states with no lieutenant governor (Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming), another executive officer serves as the ex officio lieutenant governor.

The primary responsibility of the lieutenant governor is to replace the governor in case of death, disability or other inability to exercise office. Very few state constitutions set out specific duties for the lieutenant governor beyond serving as the governor's second-in-command; for instance, Maryland's Constitution specifically says the lieutenant governor shall have only the powers the governor chooses to delegate while New Jersey, the state with America's youngest lieutenant governorship, stipulates that the lieutenant governor be placed in charge of at least one executive agency, but leaves it up to the governor to choose. It is common for a specific lieutenant governor's portfolio to reflect his or her personal areas of expertise, the current needs of the state, and the priorities of the gubernatorial administration.

More than half of lieutenant governors also serve as president of their state's Senate. Aside from casting a tie-breaking vote, however, they do not have a vote in the chamber or function as the day-to-day head of the Senate, a position that instead belongs to the President Pro Tem. Lieutenant governors do, however, frequently function as a liaison between the governor and the legislature. In some cases, lieutenant governors serve on gubernatorial cabinets, promote their own legislative priorities, or carry some other portfolio of delegated duties.

The lieutenant governor is also often included on state boards, commissions, and task forces, giving him or her additional executive responsibilities. In those states with no lieutenant governor, the responsibility of succeeding the governor usually falls to the secretary of state or to the Senate president.[2]

See also: Secretary of State

The Secretary of State exists in 47 states; it is an elected position in 34 states, appointed by the governor in nine states, and by the legislature in the remaining three. The secretary of state is usually the position next in seniority after the governor and the lieutenant governor.

The duties of secretaries of state, more so than any other executive office, vary widely across states. Still, there are a number of duties that secretaries of state in most states fulfill: oversee elections (in 39 states), business registration and licensing, trademark and trade name registration record keeping for the state, commission notaries public, ensure the state's compliance with the Uniform Commercial Code and related government administrative tasks. Some also handle motor vehicle registration, securities regulation and monitor charitable giving and lobbyists. Secretaries of state also sometimes oversee the operation of various state government institutions, from museums and libraries to the grounds of state capitols.

A report by the National Association of Secretaries of State suggests that secretaries' future responsibilities could range to election reform, digitization of government information for public access, and increased activity in international trade and cultural exchange.[3]

See also: Attorney General

The Attorney General exists in all 50 states. The position is usually popularly elected; however there are five states where the office is appointed by the governor, the legislature, or the supreme court. Attorneys general serve as the chief law enforcement official and often head the state's Department of Justice. They operate as legal advisors to state agencies or officials and represent the state in lawsuits. Besides personally prosecuting high-profile felony cases, attorneys general often operate task forces to prosecute specific types of crime within the state. This puts office of attorney general, according to the National Association of Attorneys General, at the intersection of "law and public policy."[4] In addition, attorneys general often have the power to institute civil suits, defend or challenge the constitutionality of state government actions, revoke corporate charters and enforce antitrust and open meetings laws.[4] In addition to the usual age, residency, and citizenship requirements for executive officers, attorneys general are frequently required to be practicising attorneys admitted to the state bar.

See also: Treasurer

The Treasurer exists in all states, though not exclusively under that name, and is the highest ranking financial office in those states. In 37 states, the position is elected, and in the remainder it is either appointed or, in the case of Tennessee, appointed by the legislature. Most often, the treasurer is the state's banker, receiving all tax revenues, fees and other receipts and disbursing monies to pay the state's debts based on warrants from the controller's office. The treasurer is also often responsible for managing the state's investments, operating the state's unclaimed property fund, formally issuing state bonds and supervising qualified tuition programs. Sometimes, the treasurer's office administers the state's pension fund, its payroll, or manages the state's disaster preparation.[5]

See also: Controller

Controller/Comptroller is a state level position in 11 states; the office is elected in 10 but appointed in Alaska. Controllers often share duties similar to state treasurers, exercising varying powers related to budgetary and management matters. The controller's duties can include acting as a state's chief accountant, tracking flows in and out of the state treasury and authorizing disbursements. The office may also be responsible for auditing the state's financial statements where the office of state auditor does not exist.

See also: Auditor

The Auditor exists as a statewide position in 44 states. A total of 28 states specify an auditor's position in their Constitutions; of these, 20 are elected and eight are appointed. Auditors serve a 'watchdog' function, carrying out audits and investigations of other state agencies. Auditors are also usually the officers who handle concerns of fraud and waste brought forward by citizens.

See also: Superintendent of Schools

The Superintendent of Schools oversees primary and secondary public education within a state. They frequently sit on the state's Board of Education as a non-voting chair. The position exists in all 50 states, being elected in 14 states and appointed in 36 states.

In addition to the age, residency, and citizenship requirements common to executive offices, the Superintendent is often required to have further qualifications in the field of education, often a doctoral degree in the field and/or a certain numbers of years as a school administrator.

Higher education is governed by a Board of Regents, which is not commonly a Constitutional office and whose members are not usually treated as part of the Executive.

See also: Agriculture Commissioner

Though every state has an Agriculture Commissioner, it is only an elected position in 12 states, almost all of them in the Old South. In the other 38 states, the position is a gubernatorial appointment. Their general role is regulation of various facets of the agriculture industry as well as promotion of state agribusiness.

See also: Insurance Commissioner

The Insurance Commissioner is a state level position in all 50 states. Their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator.

See also: Labor Commissioner

All 50 states have a Labor Commissioner; it is a gubernatorial appointment in 46 states. Only in Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oregon is the position elected.

See also: Natural Resources Commissioner

The Natural Resources Commissioner is a state level position in all states with the exception of Wyoming. Their general role is maintaining, protecting, and regulating natural resources, including state parks, forests and recreation areas.

See also: Public Services Commissioner

The Public Services Commissioner exists in all 50 states and is a gubernatorial appointment in 39 states, a legislative appointment in one state, and popularly elected in only ten states. Their general role is regulation of essential utility services such as energy, telecommunications, and water.

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