The Executive Summary: New governors take office in three states as 2013 campaigns get under way

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January 10, 2013

Edited by Greg Janetka

Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan was sworn in as the 81st Governor of New Hampshire on January 3, 2013.[1] Four days later, the newly elected Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory (R) and Governor of Montana Steve Bullock (D) were sworn in as well, along with their Lieutenant Governors, Dan Forest (R) and John E. Walsh (D), respectively. (See also: Swearing-in dates and Ballotpedia’s 2012 General Election Review Articles)

Along with new governors come new agency and department heads, as well as some holdovers. New officials appointed by Gov. Bullock include Pam Bucy, who lost her bid for Attorney General last year, as the Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Mike Kadas as Department of Revenue Director, and John Tubbs as Director of Natural Resources and Conservation. For a full list, click here.

Gov. McCrory’s new cabinet officers can be found here. Among them is businessman John Skvarla, who takes over as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, which has raised some controversy. Over the past two years GOP legislators have dramatically reduced the size and influence of the department, which they see as being hostile to business. Environmentalists are concerned that McCrory’s administration will only continue that trend.[2]



See also: State executive official elections, 2013

The 2012 elections are over -- time to look ahead to 2013.

Mark your calendar
January 10Swearing in of recently elected state executive officials in Nebraska and Vermont.
January 13Swearing in of recently elected state executive officials in Arizona.
January 14Swearing in of recently elected state executive officials in Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
January 15Swearing in of recently elected state executive officials in Delaware, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.
January 16Swearing in of recently elected state executive officials in Washington.

There are three states holding state executive official elections in 2013 -- New Jersey, Virginia and Wisconsin. A total of six officials will be elected. The attention-grabbing positions up for election are Governor of New Jersey and Governor of Virginia. Both made The Washington Post’s list of the top 5 races to watch in 2013.[3]

New Jersey

In New Jersey, incumbent Gov. Chris Christie (R) is running for re-election. Christie's performance in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy resonated impressively with New Jersey voters, who rewarded Christie with peak job approval ratings. Christie announced his bid for re-election on November 26, 2012, the day before Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Christie's approval rating soaring to 72%, compared to 56% in October and previous record high of 59% from April.[4][5] So far, State Senator Barbara Buono is the only confirmed challenger. Mayor of Newark Cory Booker had previously been considered the Democratic frontrunner until his announcement on December 20, 2012 that he is exploring a run for United States Senate in 2014 instead.[6]

Incumbent Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno is also running for re-election. The 2013 election will mark the second lieutenant gubernatorial election in New Jersey history and the second time Christie and Guadagno will share the Republican ticket. The general election will be held on November 5, 2013, following a statewide primary on June 4, 2013.[7] (announced bid 12/11/2012)[8]


In Virginia, incumbent Bob McDonnell (R) is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits. McDonnell’s first choice to succeed him was Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling- in part because Bolling refrained from challenging McDonnell for governor in 2009.[9]

Bolling had originally planned to run for the governorship on the Republican ticket in 2013, but he suspended his campaign on November 28, 2012, citing his slim chances beating current Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party favorite, for the party's nomination. Bolling's withdrawal stems from a recent decision by Virginia Republicans to change their method for selecting gubernatorial nominees from primary election to statewide convention.[10] Although Bolling was explicit about ending his pursuit of a place on the Republican ticket, he has not ruled out the possibility of running as an independent candidate instead.[11] About the alternative of seeking re-election to his current post, Bolling stated that, “Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli."[12]

The presumptive Democratic nominee is former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.[13]


The first state executive election in 2013 will occur in Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction will be elected on April 2, 2013. Incumbent Tony Evers is running for re-election. Unlike previous elections where multiple challengers filed to run, Evers only had one challenger submit the necessary signatures required to appear on the ballot.[14][15] The filing deadline passed on January 2, 2013.[14] This negates the need for the scheduled February 19, 2013 primary election. The two will instead face off in the general election on April 2nd.[16]


Hawaii controversy

On December 26, 2012, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) appointed his lieutenant governor, Brian E. Schatz, to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left by Daniel Inouye's death on December 17. The appointment was controversial as prior to his death Inouye asked Abercrombie to appoint U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) to the seat.

Following the appointment, Inouye's chief of staff Jennifer Sabas stated, "Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor's decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck."[17]

Per state law, the Hawaii Democratic Party sent Abercrombie a list of three potential replacements to chose from - Schatz, Hanabusa, and deputy state Land and Natural Resources Director Esther Kiaaina. Schatz was said to have received the most votes from the party's central committee.[18]

Inouye's death set in motion a series of events which will have ramifications for quite some time. With Schatz moving to Congress, that left the position of lieutenant governor vacant. Per the Hawaii Constitution, the state senate president -- Shan Tsutsui (D) -- was the next in line for the job. Tsutsui initially indicated that he might not be interested in the position, but ultimately accepted. That left a vacancy in the Hawaii State Senate, which had to filled by an appointment from the governor.[19]

Vermont Secretary of Education

On January 3, 2013, recently re-elected Governor of Vermont Peter Shumlin (D) named Armando Vilaseca the state’s first ever Secretary of Education. Until being appointed secretary of education, Vilaseca had served in the now defunct position of Vermont Commissioner of Education since January 2009.[20] The new office differs from that of the commissioner in that the secretary is a cabinet level position, selected by the governor from a trio of candidates submitted by the state board of education. Prior to the transition, the commissioner was hired by the State Board of Education and operated under the Vermont department of education (now a state agency). Whereas the commissioner was insulated from the governor’s authority, the secretary of education reports directly to the governor.[21][21]

Vilaseca was chosen by the Vermont State Board of Education and then approved by the governor to serve as the Vermont's Commissioner of Education in January 2009. As commissioner, Vilaseca was the state's chief education official, overseeing responsibility for Vermont's public schools and serving at the pleasure of the board. Then, on May 3, 2012, the Vermont legislature passed a law, H. 440, which dissolved the office of commissioner and created a statewide cabinet level position of education secretary to take its place. The bill was part of Gov. Shumlin's push to overhaul the state's education system.[22]

When questioned in August, 2012 about his role in, and intentions following, the imminent transition of his office, Vilaseca indicated that he would accept the job as state education secretary if he were to be chosen for appointment by the governor, despite the difficult position the new law put him in. "It's an awkward place for me. It's an awkward place for others as I'm a sitting commissioner that may have to apply for his own job," he said.[23]

The new law went into effect on January 1, 2013.

Featured office

Featured office: Governor

Quick facts about Governor
  • Of the 50 sitting governors, 19 are Democratic, 30 are Republican, and 1 is Independent- Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
  • 36 states hold gubernatorial elections during midterm election years (e.g. 2010, 2014...)
  • Rick Perry is the longest-current serving governor in the United States. He has been Governor of Texas since 2000.
  • Salary Range: Maine $70,000 - Pennsylvania $183,255

In the United States, the "governor" refers to the chief executive of each state, not directly subordinate to the federal authorities, but the political and ceremonial head of the state. The governor may also assume additional roles, such as the Chief Workforce Development Officer and Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard (when not federalized), and additional titles, such as His Excellency.[24] Archaic though it may seem, the honorific His Excellency - or Her Excellency if you are formally introducing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) - is still used in eleven of the original thirteen colonies, most commonly in Georgia.

The governor is directly elected in all 50 states, and in most cases has considerable practical powers (notable exceptions with very weak governorships include Texas), though this may be moderated by the state legislature and and/or by other elected executive officials. Governors can veto state bills and often possess the authority to commute or pardon a criminal sentence. They are responsible for making sure state laws are properly enforced, submitting an executive budget, and delivering annual State of the state addresses.

The specific duties and powers vary widely between states and have changed over time. Originally in the Massachusetts' Consitutution, for example, it designated that the Governor of Massachusetts has the power...

." kill, slay and destroy, if necessary, and conquer, by all fitting ways, enterprises, and means whatsoever, all and every such person and persons as shall, at any time hereafter, in a hostile manner, attempt or enterprise the destruction, invasion, detriment, or annoyance of this commonwealth[.]"

This language has since been updated and modernized by amendments to the Constitution.

In 36 states, governors are subject to some type of term limits. Though many of these term limits are initially set by state constitutions, there are a growing number of ballot initiatives to change, and in some cases create, term limits.

One such push for change that is happening on the constitutional level right now is in Virginia, where governors face the strictest term limits in the country. Under the commonwealth's constitution, no governor may serve back-to-back terms. A group of Democratic legislators would like to alter that policy. As Delegate Bob Brink (D-Arlington) explains, with a one-consecutive-term limit, the governor becomes "a lame duck the minute he takes his hand off the bible," and it becomes more difficult to make long-range plans. Brink is joined by House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) calling for a change to the state constitution that would, among other things, allow a governor to serve two consecutive terms.[25]

Governors serve four-year terms except those in New Hampshire and Vermont, who serve two-year terms.

Fourteen states do not have any limits on the number of terms a governor may serve. These states include: Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin

There are limited cases when the position is filled by someone who was not directly elected:

  • Acting Governor: This term, not used in all states, applies to someone serving as governor who was not elected. When used, it applies to someone, often the Lieutenant Governor, temporarily discharging the office due to the short-term inability of the Governor to do so. Usually, if the elected Governor's inability to serve is permanent, her replacement will simply be addressed as 'Governor'.
  • Governor-designate: This term is rarely in use. It applies when there is a planned or anticipated vacancy in the governorship. For instance, in 2010, North Dakota's elected Governor, John Hoeven, won a U.S. Senate seat. As 2010 was not a gubernatorial election year for North Dakota, when Hoeven won his race and prepared to leave the Governor's office, he had to make an appointment to fulfill the gubernatorial term. Hoeven named his Lieutenant Governor, Jack Dalrymple, who had the title of Governor-designate from Election Night 2010 until he actually took the gubernatorial Oath of Office the following month.
  • Governor-elect: This term applies to an elected governor who has not yet taken the oath of office. Governors-elect do not yet have any of the powers or duties of the office, though they may be accorded some of the privileges and honors in anticipation of their taking office.


  1. New Hampshire Office of the Governor “About" Accessed January 8, 2013
  2. Star News, “Skvarla taking the helm of gutted state environmental agency," December 30, 2012
  3. Washington Post, "The 5 best races of 2013," November 30, 2012
  4. Quinnipiac University Poll, "Sandy Response Sends New Jersey Gov Approval Sky-High, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Back Stricter Codes For Shore Rebuilding," November 27, 2012
  5. USA Today, "New Jersey Governor Christie announces re-election bid," November 27, 2012
  6. The New York Times, "Booker won't run for governor, eyes on Senate bid," December 20, 2012
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named quinpoll
  8., "Democrat Barbara Buono running for governor in NJ," December 11, 2012
  9. The Collegian, "Obama victory could cost Democrats Virginia governorship," November 15, 2012
  10. The Washington Post, "GOP Fratricide in Virginia," December 1, 2012
  11. Washington Post, "Bill Bolling decides not to seek GOP nomination for VA governor," November 28, 2012
  12. The Roanoke Times, "Could Bolling run for governor as an independent?," November 28, 2102
  13. Washington, "Cuccinelli revved up to race McAuliffe for Virginia governor," January 4, 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1 Green Bay Press Gazette “State Superintendent Supreme Court Justice will face challenges" Accessed January 8, 2013
  15. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Candidate List-Spring 2013 Elections," accessed January 2, 2013
  16. WTAQ “State public school superintendent candidates take jabs at each other" Accessed January 8, 2013
  17. Star Advertiser, "Abercrombie picks Schatz to replace Inouye in U.S. Senate," December 26, 2012
  18. Hawaii News Now, "Dems choose Hanabusa, Kiaaina, Schatz as finalists for Inouye Senate seat," December 26, 2012
  19. Fox news, "Hawaii governor taps Lt. Gov. Schatz over Rep. Hanabusa to fill Senate seat," December 26, 2012
  20., "Q&A: Armando Vilaseca, Vermont commissioner of education," accessed September 12, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1, "Vilaseca named education secretary," January 3, 2013
  22. Associated Press via, "Vt. panel to do national search for education chief," August 23, 2012
  23., "Vt. education commissioner wants be to education secretary," August 9, 2012
  24. Virginia General Assembly, “Code of Virginia, Title 2," accessed January 9, 2013
  25. '"Washington, "Democrats want longer terms for Va. governors," December 12, 2011