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Governor of Virginia

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Virginia Governor
General information
Office Type:  Partisan
Office website:  Official Link
2012 FY Budget:  $4,466,366
Term limits:  Cannot succeed themselves, no limit on total number of terms
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:  Virginia Constitution, Article V, Section 1
Selection Method:  Elected
Current Officeholder

Terry McAuliffe.jpg
Name:  Terry McAuliffe
Officeholder Party:  Democratic
Assumed office:  January 11, 2014
Compensation:  $175,000
Next election:  November 7, 2017
Last election:  November 5, 2013
Other Virginia Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorSuperintendent of EducationAgriculture CommissionerInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources CommissionerLabor CommissionerPublic Service Commission
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia is an elected Constitutional officer, the head of the Executive branch, and the highest state office in Virginia. The Governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and has no life-term term limit, however he cannot serve consecutive terms.
See also: Virginia State Legislature, Virginia House of Representatives, Virginia State Senate

Current officeholder

The 72nd and current governor is Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat elected in 2014.[1]


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

Under Article V, Section I:

The chief executive power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Governor.


Candidates for the office of Governor of Virginia must be:

  • a United States citizen
  • a resident of Virginia for at least five years at the time of the election
  • a qualified elector of Virginia for at least one year preceding the election
  • at least 30 years old


See also: How gubernatorial vacancies are filled

Details of vacancies are addressed under Article V, Section 16. If a Governor-elect dies, resigns, fails to qualify, or cannot take office for any other reason, the Lieutenant Governor-elect takes office as Governor and serves the full term. If the Governor-elect is only temporarily unable to take the oath, the Lieutenant Governor-elect serves as Acting Governor until the disability is removed.

"In the case of the removal of the Governor from office or in the case of his disqualification, death, or resignation, the Lieutenant Governor shall become Governor."

While death and resignation are straightforward, what about disqualification? One option outlined in Section 16 states:

"Whenever the Attorney General, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Delegates, or a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly, transmit to the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Delegates their written declaration that the Governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Lieutenant Governor shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting Governor."

If that were to happen, the governor could still offer a "written declaration that no inability exists" and resume the position unless the Attorney General, the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates, or a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly, reply with their own written declaration, reaffirming their beliefs that the governor is unable to discharge the duties of the office. That then sends the issue to the General Assembly to decide.

Also worth noting is that Virginia has a unique process for removing elected officials from office that is akin to a recall, but gives jurisdiction to a circuit court, which would hold a trial. Created in 1975 and modified in 1989, 1993, 2002, and 2011, § 24.2-233 of the Virginia code states:[2]

"Upon petition, a circuit court may remove from office any elected officer or officer who has been appointed to fill an elective office, residing within the jurisdiction of the court."

The petition would require signatures of registered voters equal to ten percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for the office. The terms of which an official can be removed include neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office, or upon conviction of a drug-related misdemeanor or a misdemeanor involving a "hate crime."[2][3]

At any time, a sitting Governor may transmit a written statement to both the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that she is temporarily unable to serve, at which time the Lieutenant Governor becomes Acting Governor. The Governor resumes her duties by making a second written declaration to the same two officers.

If, at the time a vacancy occurs, an emergency prevents the Assembly from convening, the preordained line of succession behind the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor is as follows:

  • the Speaker of the House of Delegates
  • the Delegate named to act as the Speaker's stead in the Rules of the House of Delegates
  • the President Pro Tem of the Senate
  • the Majority Leader of the Senate

Such an individual serves as Acting Governor until the General Assembly is able to convene.

The General Assembly also has the discretion to pass a law that waives the eligibility requirements to serve as Governor or Acting Governor. Such a law may only apply in an "emergency or enemy attack upon the soil of Virginia" and only when the Governor or the duly appointed officer has proclaimed an emergency.


Virginia state government organizational chart
Bob McDonnell's swearing-in ceremony on January 16, 2010

Virginia belongs to the handful of states that hold off-year elections, that is, elections in off-numbered years that are neither Presidential nor midterm years. In Virginia's case, elections are held in the year after a Presidential and before a midterm; thus, 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2021 are all gubernatorial election years. Legally, the inauguration is always held the second Wednesday in the January after an election. Thus, January 8, 2014 and January 10, 2018 are inaugural days.

In the event of a tie between two candidates or a contested election, a joint session of the legislature shall cast ballots.

Term limits

See also: States with gubernatorial term limits

Virginia governors are not allowed to succeed themselves in office, however they have no restrictions on the number of times they may hold the position. This was once a common provision among America's gubernatorial offices, but Virginia is now the only state that continues to apply it.

Virginia Constitution, Article V, Section 1

[The Governor] shall be ineligible to the same office for the term next succeeding that for which he was elected

Partisan composition

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Virginia from 1992-2013.

Governor of Virginia Partisanship.PNG

Full History



The governor is responsible for ensuring that the laws of the state are faithfully executed and is responsible for the safety of the state, as he serves as commander-in-chief of the Virginia Militia. The governor must convene the legislature when two-thirds of each house calls for a special session (§ 5).

Other duties and privileges of the office include:

  • The governor makes an address to the legislature at least once during each regular session concerning the state of the Commonwealth and containing his recommendations (§ 5).
  • The governor has the legislative power to submit recommendations and to call special sessions when he finds them necessary (§ 5).
  • The governor has veto powers over bills and appropriations. All bills must be sent to the governor before becoming law. The governor may sign the bill, let it sit unsigned for seven days after which it becomes law, or veto the legislation. After a veto, the bill returns to its house of origin and may be overridden by two-thirds of the vote in each house (§ 6).
  • The governor also has the power to use a line-item veto. He may send legislation back to the legislature with recommendations and amendments, including severable amendments. The legislature must either approve the changes by a majority in each house, or override the veto with a two-thirds majority in each house (§ 6).
  • The governor is commander-in-chief of Virginia's armed forces (§ 7).
  • The governor may also communicate with other states and foreign powers (§ 7).
  • The governor has the power to fill vacancies in positions unless the position is appointed by the legislature (§ 7).
  • The governor may commute fines or sentences and issue pardons, excepting cases when the conviction was made by the House of Delegates. The governor may also restore voting rights and overturn other political penalties on individuals (§ 12).
  • The governor must reside at the seat of government during his term (§ 4).
  • The governor may require information, in writing and under oath, from any executive officer, officer of an administrative department, or officer of a state institution, on any aspect of that officer's duties and office (§ 8).
  • The governor appoints all administrative officers, subject to the confirmation of the Senate or the General Assembly, as required by law, and provided the nominee have the legal qualifications for the office ((§ 8).
  • Attesting to all commissions and grants made by the Commonwealth of Virginia (§ 17).


Note: Ballotpedia's state executive officials project researches state official websites for information that describes the divisions (if any exist) of a state executive office. That information for the Governor of Virginia has not yet been added. After extensive research we were unable to identify any relevant information on state official websites. If you have any additional information about this office for inclusion on this section and/or page, please email us.

State budget

Role in state budget

See also: Virginia state budget

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

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in April and August.
  2. State agency budget requests are submitted in June and October.
  3. Agency hearings are held in September and October.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Virginia General Assembly by December 20.
  5. The General Assembly holds public hearings in January.
  6. The General Assembly adopts a budget in March or April. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.
  7. The biennial budget cycle begins in July.

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

Though the governor and General Assembly are not required by law to submit or pass a balanced budget, the Virginia Constitution does require the budget to be balanced before the governor signs it into law.[5]

Governor's office budget

The budget for the Governor's Office in Fiscal Year 2012 was $4,466,366.[6]


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

The governor's salary is set by law and may not be raised or diminished effective during the current term.


In 2013, the governor's salary was $175,000.[7]


In 2010, the Governor of Virginia was paid $166,000 a year, the 5th highest gubernatorial salary in America.

Historical officeholders

There have been 71 governors of Virginia since 1776. (Acting governors are listed below but not counted). Of the 71 officeholders, 36 were Democrats, 13 were Democratic-Republicans, 8 had no party, 7 were Republicans, 2 were Conservative, 2 were Federalists, 2 were Whigs, and 1 was a Readjuster.[8]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a google news search for the term Virginia + Governor

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Governor of Virginia News Feed

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Contact information

Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


Partisan balance 1992-2013

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

From 1992-2013, in Virginia there were Democratic governors in office for 10 years while there were Republican governors in office for 12 years, including the last four. Virginia was under Republican trifectas for the last two years of the study period.

Across the country, there were 493 years of Democratic governors (44.82%) and 586 years of Republican governors (53.27%) 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 Virginia, the Virginia State Senate and the Virginia House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Virginia state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Virginia 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. During the course of the study, Virginia experienced both Democratic and Republican trifectas as well as divided governments. For over half the years of the study, Virginia was ranked in the top-10. This occurred during a Democratic trifecta, Republican trifectas and divided government. Both its highest ranking, finishing 1st in 2006, and its lowest ranking, finishing 26th in 1997, occurred during divided governments.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 11.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 7.67
  • SQLI average with divided government: 9.00
Chart displaying the partisanship of the Virginia government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links

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