Governor of Delaware

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The Governor of the State of Delaware is an elected Constitutional officer, the head of the Executive branch, and the highest state office in Delaware. The Governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is limited to two terms.

Current officer

The 73rd and current governor of Delaware is Democrat Jack Markell, first elected in 2008.

His wife, Carla Markell, is the First Lady of Delaware.


The state Constitution addresses the office of the governor in Article III, the Executive Department.

Under Article IV, Section I:

The Supreme executive powers of the State shall be vested in a Governor.


The Delaware Constitution of 1776 provided for the first executives of the independent state of Delaware. They were known as "Presidents," rather than "Governors," as they were to preside rather than govern. In keeping with the general reaction to the perceived excessive executive authority of the British, the Delaware General Assembly dominated the government. Accordingly, they elected the President and their legislation became law with or without his approval. They were never subject to any possibility of a veto. Indeed, the Constitution forced the Presidents to share such authority as they had with a four person Privy Council, also appointed by the General Assembly. All appointments and other decisions of the President had to be approved by them.

With a second constitution, the Delaware Constitution of 1792, the office was called, "Governor," relieved of the Privy Council, and elected by direct popular vote. At first they served for a term of three years, but beginning with the election of 1832 they have been elected to terms of four years. Since 1896 they have been eligible for reelection, but only one time. They have been chosen in the same general election as the U.S. President since 1896 as well, and take office the third Tuesday of the following January.


Under Article III, Section 6, the governor must be at 30 years old, a citizen of the United States for at least 12 years on the day of the election, and a resident of Delaware for at least six years on the same date.


Delaware elects governors in the Presidential elections, that is, in leap years. For Delaware, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 are all gubernatorial election years. Legally, the gubernatorial inauguration is always set for the third Tuesday in the January following an election. Thus, January 15, 2013 and January 17, 2017 are inaugural days.

In the unlikely event that two candidates receive the exact same vote tally at the general election, a joint session of the legislature shall cast ballots to choose one-third of the members of each chamber to make up a special joint committee, which will in turn cast ballots for the governor. In the even more unlikely event that the legislature is similarly tied, the President of the Senate shall have the deciding vote (§ 4).


See also: How gubernatorial vacancies are filled

Details of vacancies are addressed under Article III, Section 20.

The Lieutenant Governor of Delaware is the first in line to become either the Acting Governor of the Governor in the event that the elected officer is unable or unwilling to discharge the office, either temporarily or permanently. If the lieutenant governorship is likewise vacant, the descending order of succession is the Secretary of State of Delaware, the Attorney General of Delaware, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House.

Any of these officers who takes over the governor's duties is understood to have given up her previous office.

In te event of physical or mental inability to discharge the office, the governor may deliver a written statement to the Assembly to that effect. Alternately, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware, the President of the Medical Society of Delaware and the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, acting unanimously, may declare the governor unfit. In either of these events, the lieutenant governor becomes the Acting Governor, pending a vote of the Assembly to make the appointment permanent (§ 20).



The Governor of Delaware is, under § 8, head of the state's military forces, unless said forces have already been called into service by the federal government. He makes, with Senate confirmation, all appointments mandated by the Constitution and also fills all vacancies that do not have an alternate method for filling vacancies prescribed by law (§ 9).

Excepting the Lieutenant Governor of Delaware and members of the General Assembly, the Governor may remove any other elected officer for any cause, provide the secure a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Assembly (§ 13). Periodically, in accordance with § 15, the Governor must address the Assembly, detailing the state of Delaware and making recommendations.

§ 18 gives him a veto over all bills, including appropriations, subject to a three-fifths majority override in both legislative houses.

Other duties and privileges of the office include:

  • Making and sign all commissions granted by the state of Delaware (§ 12).
  • Requiring written reports from any member of the Executive on any aspects of the particular officer's job (§ 14).
  • Convening extraordinary sessions of the General Assembly by proclamation, adjourning the Assembly when that body cannot agree on an adjourning date, and convening the Senate for executive business (§ 16).
  • Seeing to the faithful execution of all laws (§ 17).


Under Article III, Section 7, the governor's salary is fixed by law and, if changed, does not take effect during the current term.

As of 2010, the Governor of Delaware is paid $171,000 a year, the 23rd highest gubernatorial salary in America.

Gubernatorial residence

Governors of Delaware have an official residence at Woodburn, a two story Georgian brick mansion, built by Charles Hillyard, III in 1790 on land that is now in the capitol city of Dover.

According to local legend, the home has at least one resident ghost, an older gentleman in colonial era dress. Woodburn is also popularly believed to have been a safe house on the Underground Railroad.

Woodburn was briefly leased to a sitting governor in the 1820s before reverting to a private residence. In 1965, Governor and First Lady Charles L. Terry, Jr. officially secured Woodburn for the state of Delaware. Following Mrs. Terry's refurbishment of the mansion, it became the official gubernatorial residence in 1966.

Woodburn is open to the public, by appointment only, through admission is free.

Contact information

Dover Office
Tatnall Building
William Penn Street, 2nd Fl.
Dover, DE 19901

Telephone: (302) 744-4101
Fax: (302) 739-2775

See also

External links