Governor of Virginia

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The Governor of the Commonwealth 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 is has no lifeterm term limit but cannot succeed himself.

Current officer

The 71st and current governor is Bob McDonnell, a Republican elected in 2009.

His wife, Maureen Gardner, is the First Lady of Virginia.


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 year preceding the election
  • at least 30 years old


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.


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.

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 the Attorney General, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House are in agreement that the Governor is unable to discharge the office, or when a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly vote on the same, they shall communicate their decision to the Clerks of both the State Senate and the House of Delegates, at which point the Lieutenant Governor immediately becomes the Acting Governor.

The Governor may, in writing, attest to the clerks of both chambers that no such inability exists and resume her duties, unless the same officers who voted to suspend her challenge the declaration in writing with four days. at that points, the General Assembly convenes within 48 hours, if not already in session, and has 21 days to decide that matter, with a three-fourths vote required. If the legislature indeed votes to remove the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor ceases to be the Acting Governor and becomes the Governor. If the vote fails, the Governor immediately resumes her full powers.

The Lieutenant Governor also immediately becomes Governor upon the death, resignation, or disqualification of the Governor.

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 of 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.



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).


See also: Comparison of gubernatorial salaries

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

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

Contact information

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

See also

External links