Governor of Colorado

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Colorado Governor
General information
Office Type:  Partisan
Office website:  Official Link
2012-2013 FY Budget:  $34,033,530
Term limits:  2 terms
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:  Colorado Constitution, Article IV, Section 2
Selection Method:  Elected
Current Officeholder

Name:  John Hickenlooper
Officeholder Party:  Democratic
Assumed office:  January 11, 2011
Compensation:  $90,000
Next election:  November 6, 2018
Last election:  November 4, 2014
Other Colorado Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerControllerCommissioner of EducationAgriculture CommissionerInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources Exec. DirectorLabor Executive DirectorPublic Utilities Commission
The Governor of Colorado is an elected constitutional officer, the head of the executive branch and the highest state office in Colorado. The governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is limited to two terms.

Until 1967, the governor and the lieutenant governor were elected on separate tickets for two-year terms. Term length for both offices was increased to four years in 1967, and in 1986 the constitution was amended to elect both on the same ticket. The two-term limit was added to the constitution in 1991.

As of May 2015, Colorado is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.

See also: Colorado State Legislature, Colorado House of Representatives, Colorado State Senate

Current officeholder

See also: Current governors by party affiliation

The 42nd and current governor is John Hickenlooper (D). He was first elected in 2010. Hickenlooper took office on January 11, 2011, and won re-election to a second term in 2014.

Before becoming governor, Hickenlooper served as mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011, during which time the city hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Prior to entering public service, he operated Wynkoop Brewing Co., a Denver brewpub, which he opened in 1988. He was a geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum, a now-defunct oil company, from 1981 to 1988.[1]


The state constitution establishes the office of the governor in Article IV, the Executive Department.

Colorado Constitution, Article IV, Section 2

The supreme executive power of the state shall be vested in the governor, who shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Colorado Constitution, Article II, Section 2

All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.


Current Governors
Gubernatorial Elections
Current Lt. Governors
Lt. Governor Elections
Breaking news

Article IV, Section 4 of the state constitution requires all candidates for the governorship to be:

  • at least 30 years old
  • a U.S. citizen
  • a resident of Colorado for at least two years on the day of the election. The standard for residency is not affected by time out of the state due to civil or military service (Article VII, Section 4)

Article III forbids any officer of the executive department from holding any legislative or judicial office.

A candidate is disqualified from holding the office of governor if he has been convicted of "embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury, solicitation of bribery, or subornation of perjury"(Article XII, § 4). Additionally, any civil officer who "solicits, demands, or receives" a bribe forfeits his office and his right to hold any other office in the future, and is liable to criminal penalties (Article XII, § 6).

Colorado Constitution, Article IV, Section 4

No person shall be eligible to the office of governor or lieutenant governor unless he shall have attained the age of thirty years, nor to the office of secretary of state or state treasurer unless he shall have attained the age of twenty­five years, nor to the office of attorney general unless he shall have attained the age of twenty­five years and be a licensed attorney of the supreme court of the state in good standing, and no person shall be eligible to any one of said offices unless, in addition to the qualifications above prescribed therefore, he shall be a citizen of the United States, and have resided within the limits of the state two years next preceding his election.


Colorado state government organizational chart
See also: Gubernatorial election cycles by state
See also: Election of governors

Colorado elects governors in federal midterm election years (e.g. 2018, 2022, 2026, 2030). Per Article IV, Section 1 of the state constitution, the gubernatorial inauguration is always set for the second Tuesday in the January following an election.

If two candidates are tied, a joint session of the legislature casts ballots to choose the winner from among the top two voter getters. If the election is contested, the legislature shall jointly resolve the manner as prescribed by law. In early 1905, the previous year's gubernatorial election was formally contested and the legislature did in fact vote to remove the candidate who had been initially declared the winner.

Colorado Constitution, Article IV, Section 1

(1) The executive department shall include the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, and attorney general, each of whom shall hold his office for the term of four years, commencing on the second Tuesday of January in the year 1967, and each fourth year thereafter. They shall perform such duties as are prescribed by this constitution or by law.


See also: Colorado gubernatorial election, 2014

Incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) faced three candidates in his re-election bid in 2014. Hickenlooper was challenged by Republican Bob Beauprez, Libertarian Party candidate Matthew Hess and Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. The general election took place November 4, 2014.

Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngJohn Hickenlooper/Joseph Garcia Incumbent 49.3% 1,006,433
     Republican Bob Beauprez/Jill Rapella 46% 938,195
     Libertarian Matthew Hess/Brandon Young 1.9% 39,590
     Green Harry Hempy/Scott Olson 1.3% 27,391
     Unaffiliated Mike Dunafon/Robin Roberts 1.2% 24,042
     Unaffiliated Paul Fiorino/Charles Whitley 0.3% 5,923
Total Votes 2,041,574
Election Results via Colorado Secretary of State.


See also: Colorado gubernatorial election, 2010

On November 2, 2010, John Hickenlooper won election to the office of Governor of Colorado. He defeated Tom Tancredo (ACP), Dan Maes (R), Jaimes Brown (L), Jason Clark (I) and Paul Fiorino (I) in the general election.

Governor of Colorado, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngJohn Hickenlooper 51% 912,005
     American Constitution Party Tom Tancredo 36.5% 651,232
     Republican Dan Maes 11.1% 199,034
     Libertarian Jaimes Brown 0.7% 12,314
     Independent Jason Clark 0.5% 8,576
     Independent Paul Fiorino 0.2% 3,483
Total Votes 1,786,644
Election Results Via: The New York Times

Full history

Term limits

See also: States with gubernatorial term limits

Colorado governors are restricted to two consecutive terms in office, after which they must wait one term before being eligible to run again. Term limits were added to the constitution in 1990 through the Colorado Term Limits Act.

Colorado Constitution, Article IV, Section 1

(2) In order to broaden the opportunities for public service and to guard against excessive concentrations of power, no governor ... shall serve more than two consecutive terms in such office. This limitation on the number of terms shall apply to terms of office beginning on or after January 1, 1991. Any person who succeeds to the office of governor or is appointed or elected to fill a vacancy in one of the other offices named in this section, and who serves at least one-half of a term of office, shall be considered to have served a term in that office for purposes of this subsection (2). Terms are considered consecutive unless they are at least four years apart.

Removal from office

Colorado is among the 19 states that provides citizens an avenue to recall their governor. One territorial governor, Edward M. McCook, was removed by petition. No governors have been recalled since Colorado became a state in 1876. Additionally, the legislature may impeach the governor, a privilege they have never exercised.


See also: States with gubernatorial recall provisions

Recalls are governed under Article XXI, Sections 1 through 3

State officials, including the governor, are subject to recall after the first six months of their term. Recall proponents must file a petition with the same officer who accepts the nominating petition for the office in question; for statewide officers, this is the Colorado Secretary of State.

The petition must have valid signatures equal to 25 percent of the votes cast for the incumbent in his last election. Based on the number of votes received by the governor in the 2014 election, a recall petition would require 510,393 signatures, or 25 percent of the 2,041,574 votes cast for John Hickenlooper. Additionally, the petition must contain a statement, not exceeding 200 words, stating the grounds for the recall.

Normally, the governor is the officer charged with calling a recall election after validating signatures. However, if the governor is the officer being recalled, the lieutenant governor oversees the election. The incumbent subject to recall has five days to resign before the presiding officer calls the recall election.

If the petition, once submitted, is insufficient, it may be withdrawn and, within 15 days, amended and refiled. Once determined to be sufficient, a recall petition is submitted to the lieutenant governor, who calls a recall election not less than 30 days and not more than 60 days from the date of the petition's filing. If a general election is set within 90 days, the recall election may be combined with the general election.

If the recall fails, the incumbent may not be recalled again for the remainder of his or her term. Additionally, an incumbent who survives a recall is legally entitled to reimbursement of certain expenses from the state treasury.


See also: Gubernatorial impeachment procedures

Impeachments of civil officers are governed under Article XIII, Sections 1 and 2.

The Colorado House of Representatives has the "sole power of impeachment" and a majority of the House's members must concur to impeach.

If the House does impeach, the Colorado Senate tries all impeachments, with all Senators required to take an oath or affirmation to be impartial before the trial begins. Article XIII, Section 1 of the state constitution requires the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court be the presiding officer when the governor or lieutenant governor is on trial.

The governor and lieutenant governor are liable to impeachment for "high crimes or misdemeanors or malfeasance in office" but, if impeached, the senate's judgment only extends to removal from office and disqualification to hold further offices. An impeached officer may still be liable for indictment, trial and punishment by state law enforcement.

Oath of office

Civil officers, including the governor, are required to take an oath under Article XII, Section 8 before they may carry out any functions of their office. Under Article XII, Section 9, officers of the executive department file their oath with the Colorado Secretary of State.

Specifics of oaths and affirmations are described in the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 24, Article 12, Sections 101-108.

Partisan composition

The chart below shows the partisan breakdown of Colorado governors from 1992-2013.
Governor of Colorado Partisanship.PNG


See also: How gubernatorial vacancies are filled

Details of vacancy appointments are addressed under Article IV, Section 13 of the state constitution.

If the office of the governor is vacant, temporarily or permanently, for any reason, the lieutenant governor takes over all the duties and responsibilities of the office. Once the lieutenant governor assumes the governorship, he appoints a replacement for the now-empty lieutenant governorship.

If the lieutenant governor is unable to discharge the office or if both the governor's and lieutenant governor's offices are vacant, the position(s) shall be filled by the highest ranking member(s) of the state legislature who belongs to the same party as the elected officer in question.

If the governor is unfit for office due to physical or mental illness, the officeholder may deliver a written statement to the legislature declaring himself no longer able to serve, or the Colorado Supreme Court may hold a hearing to deem the office holder not physically or mentally fit for office.

Additionally, if an appointed governor serves more than half of a four-year term, for purposes of applying term limits, he shall be considered to have served a full term.



The governor is responsible for upholding the Colorado Constitution and for faithfully executing all laws (§ 2). The governor also acts as commander in chief of the state's militia or National Guard at all times, unless it has been federalized (§ 5).

Under Article II, Sections 21 and 22, the governor may only suspend habeas corpus in times of rebellion or invasion and the state's militia is always subject to civil authority.

The governor has a veto over all bills, including appropriations, passed by the General Assembly. The legislature may override vetoes with a supermajority (66 percent or more) of both houses (§ 11, 12).

In addition to appointing, with senate confirmation, all state executive offices not appointed by some other means, the governor may remove officers for malfeasance, neglect or incompetence (§ 6). Whenever any elected office becomes vacant when the Senate is in recess, the Governor may make a recess appointment, provided he presents his nominee to the Senate when they next convene.

Other duties and privileges of the office include:

  • Granting pardons for all crimes, save treason. In all pardons and reprieves, he must communicate to the legislature the details of and reasons for the action (§ 7).
  • Requiring written information, given under oath, from all officers and managers of state institutions on the conditions of the offices they oversee (§ 8)
  • Providing details of the expenditures of the governor's office to the legislature (§ 8)
  • Convening extraordinary sessions of the House or the Senate (§ 9), and adjourning the Assembly when its members cannot agree to do so themselves (§ 10)
  • Making vacancy appointments to the any court of records from a list of nominees supplied by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission (Article VI, § 20(1)) and making vacancy appointments to vacant District Attorney offices (Article VI, § 20(4))
  • Declaring a state of emergency and issuing an executive order to move the seat of government, after consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the Attorney General (Article VIII, § 3)
  • Appointing all field, staff, and general military officers and commissioning the officers each company selects (Article XVII, § 3)

Additionally, statutory duties and privileges of the office are described in the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 24, Article 20, Part 1, Section 101-110.


The structure of the governor's office is partly described in the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 24, Article 37-38.9.

The governor's office currently has 12 political and policy offices within it, in addition to the Governor's Press Office[2]:

  • Boards and Commissions Office
  • Citizens' Advocate Office
  • Office of Workforce Development
  • Office of State Planning and Budgeting
  • Governor's Energy Office
  • Office of Cyber Security
  • Office of Economic Development and International Trade
  • Office of Homeland Security
  • Office of Information Technology
  • Office of Policy and Initiatives
  • Office of Legislative Relations
  • Office of Legal Counsel

Governor's cabinet

The cabinet of the Governor of Colorado has 28 officers.[3] It consists of five elected officers, one member of the gubernatorial staff and 22 gubernatorial appointees.

State budget

Role in state budget

See also: Colorado state budget and finances

The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[4][5]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in April.
  2. Agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in August.
  3. Agency hearings are held in August and September.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in November.
  5. The legislature typically adopts a budget in May for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

Colorado is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[5]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature, which must in turn adopt a balanced budget.[5]

Governor's office budget

The budget for the Governor's Office in the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year was $34,033,530.[6]


See also: Comparison of gubernatorial salaries and Compensation of state executive officers

The salaries of all elected executives in Colorado are determined by state law as mandated by the Colorado Constitution.[7] Article IV, Section 19 of the state constitution notes that legislators cannot decrease state executive salaries during their current terms in office.

Text of Section 19:

Salaries of Officers Fees Paid into Treasury

The officers named in section one of this article shall receive for their services a salary to be established by law, which shall not be increased or diminished during their official terms. It shall be the duty of all such officers to collect in advance all fees prescribed by law for services rendered by them severally, and pay the same into the state treasury.[8]


In 2014, the governor received a salary of $90,000, according to the Council of State Governments.[9]


In 2013, the governor's salary remained at $90,000, according to the Council of State Governments.[10]


In 2011, the governor was paid $90,000, the 48th highest gubernatorial salary in America.[11]

Gubernatorial residence

See also: Residences of the American governors
The western exposure of the Boettcher Mansion, residence of the Governor and First Family of Colorado.

Properly known as the Boettcher Mansion, the official gubernatorial residence is an early 20th century white marble home, built in the Roman Ionic style and located at East 8th Avenue and Logan Street on Capitol Hill in Denver.

The mansion passed through the ownership of many of Colorado's founding families, having been built by the Cheesemans between 1907-1908, upgraded by the Evans throughout the early 1920s, and finally coming to be owned by the Boettchers. It was offered to the state of Colorado as a gubernatorial residence in 1957, in accordance with the will of Edna Boettcher, and accepted on behalf of the state by Governor Stephen McNichols in 1959.

Many of the furnishings are original to the era when the mansion was a private residence. Of particular note is the Waterford chandelier in the main drawing room, which originally hung in the White House ballroom and was given to Colorado on the occasion of her statehood, in 1876, by President Chester A. Arthur.

The second floor is the private residence of the First Family of Colorado, if they so choose. The lack of both space and privacy has led to several recent governors maintaining their private homes instead. Governor Hickenlooper and Governor Owens both kept their own homes, through Governor Ritter moved into the mansion.

The main floor of the mansion is used for state occasions, is open to the public for tours, and may be rented for private events.

Historical officeholders

Colorado has had eight territorial governors and 42 state governors, for a total of 50 chief executives.[12]

# Name Term Party
1 John L. Routt March 29, 1875-January 14, 1879 Republican
2 Frederick W. Pitkin January 14, 1879-January 9, 1883 Republican
3 James B. Grant January 9, 1883-January 13, 1885 Democratic
4 Benjamin H. Eaton January 13, 1885-January 11, 1887 Republican
5 Alva Adams January 11, 1887-January 8, 1889 Democratic
6 Job A. Cooper January 8, 1889-January 13, 1891 Republican
7 John L. Routt January 13, 1891-January 10, 1893 Republican
8 Davis H. Waite January 10, 1893-January 8, 1895 Populist
9 Albert W. McIntyre January 8, 1895-January 12, 1897 Republican
10 Alva Adams January 12, 1897-January 10, 1899 Democratic
11 Charles S. Thomas January 10, 1899-January 8, 1901 Democratic
12 James B. Orman January 8, 1901-January 13, 1903 Democratic
13 James H. Peabody January 13, 1903-January 10, 1905 Republican
14 Alva Adams1 January 10, 1905-March 17, 1905 Democratic
15 James H. Peabody March 17, 1905 Republican
16 Jesse F. McDonald March 17, 1905-January 8, 1907 Republican
17 Henry A. Buchtel January 8, 1907-January 12, 1909 Republican
18 John F. Shafroth January 12, 1909-January 14, 1913 Democratic
19 Elias M. Ammons January 14, 1913-January 12, 1915 Democratic
20 George A. Carlson January 12, 1915-January 9, 1917 Republican
21 Julius C. Gunter January 9, 1917-January 14, 1919 Democratic
22 Oliver H. Shoup January 14, 1919-January 9, 1923 Republican
23 William E. Sweet January 9, 1923-January 13, 1925 Democratic
24 Clarence Morley January 13, 1925-January 11, 1927 Republican
25 Billy Adams January 11, 1927-January 10, 1933 Democratic
26 Edwin C. Johnson2 January 10, 1933-January 1, 1937 Democratic
27 Ray H. Talbot January 1, 1937-January 12, 1937 Democratic
28 Teller Ammons January 12, 1937-January 10, 1939 Democratic
29 Ralph L. Carr January 10, 1939-January 12, 1943 Republican
30 John C. Vivian January 12, 1943-January 14, 1947 Republican
31 William L. Knous3 January 14, 1947-April 15, 1950 Democratic
32 Walter W. Johnson April 15, 1950-January 9, 1951 Democratic
33 Daniel I.J. Thornton January 9, 1951-January 11, 1955 Republican
34 Edwin C. Johnson January 11, 1955-January 18, 1957 Democratic
35 Stephen L.R. McNichols January 18, 1957-January 8, 1963 Democratic
36 John A. Love4 January 8, 1963-July 16, 1973 Republican
37 John D. Vanderhoof July 16, 1973-January 14, 1975 Republican
38 Dick Lamm January 14, 1975-January 13, 1987 Democratic
39 Roy Romer January 13, 1987-January 12, 1999 Democratic
40 Bill Owens January 12, 1999-January 9, 2007 Repbulican
41 Bill Ritter January 9, 2007-January 11, 2011 Democratic
42 John Hickenlooper January 11, 2011-present Democratic

1 The 1904 election was rife with fraud. Democrat Alva Adams, who served as the 5th and 10th Governor, was initially declared the winner, sworn in and took office as the 14th Governor in January of 1905.

On the morning on March 17, 1905, the Republican-controlled legislature declared that the election had in fact been won by James Hamilton Peabody, the incumbent Adams defeated and declared Peabody the winner, provided he immediately resign the office.

Peabody thus served as the 13th and 15th Governor of Colorado.

Peabody assumed the office, named Jesse Fuller McDonald as his lieutenant governor and promptly communicated his resignation to the Colorado Secretary of State, at which point McDonald became the 16th Governor of Colorado.

Colorado is the only state to have had three governors serve in a single day.

2Johnson won a U.S. Senate seat in the 1936 elections and resigned his lame-duck gubernatorial office 12 days before his successor was inaugurated due to differences between the state and federal inauguration schedules. Johnson's lieutenant, Ray Herbert Talbot, served for 12 days until the scheduled inaugural day, when Governor-elect Teller Ammons was sworn in.

3Knous resigned to take a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

4Love resigned to become the Director of the Office of Energy Policy.


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Colorado
Partisan breakdown of the Colorado governorship from 1992-2013

From 1992-2013, there were Democratic governors in office for 14 years while there were Republican governors in office for eight years. During the final year (2013), Colorado was under a Democratic trifecta.

Across the country, there were 493 years of Democratic governors (44.82 percent) and 586 years of Republican governors (53.27 percent) from 1992-2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Colorado, the Colorado State Senate and the Colorado House of Representatives from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of Colorado state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

Colorado was one of eight states to demonstrate a dramatic partisan shift in the 22 years studied. A dramatic shift was defined by a movement of 40 percent or more toward one party over the course of the study period. Colorado has shifted dramatically from Republican to Democratic control.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Colorado state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Colorado has consistently ranked in the top-10 in the SQLI ranking during the period of the study, and also ranked in the top-5 for thirteen of the twenty years studied. The state has ranked 1st for two separate years (1997 and 2007), once under divided government and once under a Democratic trifecta. Colorado experienced its most precipitous drop in the SQLI ranking between 2009 and 2010, while still remaining in the top-10 of states. Republican trifectas occurred during the periods between 1999 and 2000 and again between 2003 and 2004, while Democratic trifectas occurred between 2007 and 2011 and again beginning in 2013 to the present. The state experienced a disruption in the Democratic trifectas between those periods when Republicans controlled the state house for two years, between 2010 and 2013.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 3.25
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 5.50
  • SQLI average with divided government: 4.69
Chart displaying the partisanship of Colorado government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Colorado Governor."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

Governor of Colorado - Google News Feed

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Contact information

Physical address:
John Hickenlooper, Governor
136 State Capitol
Denver, CO 80203-1792

Phone: (303) 866-2471
Fax: (303) 866-2003

See also

External links