Governor (United States)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of the USA with the party affiliation of the governors 1
  • Democratic governor
  • Republican governor
  • Governor of the Partido Nuevo Progresista (Puerto Rico)
  • 1 Washington, DC is a mayor

    The Governor ( English governor ), the Heads of State and Head of Government of a State or outside the area of the United States . Furthermore, they are in command of the respective national and state guards . The governor is entrusted with the management of government affairs in his state and has the right to pardonand also has representative tasks. The respective office holder plays a central role in the federal legislative process and is responsible for filling important state offices. The governors are elected directly by the population of their state or suburb. While New Hampshire and Vermont only have a two-year governor, all other governors have a four-year term. The governors do not represent their state at the federal level and therefore have no direct influence on federal legislation, as this is reserved for the two senators in each state.

    Political position

    Term limits for governors:
  • No tenure limit, four-year terms
  • No tenure limit, two-year terms
  • Re-election possible once after a four-year break
  • Re-election immediately possible once, re-election possible after four years
  • Re-election immediately possible once, re-election possible after 12 years
  • Re-election immediately possible once, re-election after 16 years possible
  • Re-election is generally only possible once or a maximum of two terms in total
  • Seal of the Governor of Texas
    Standard of the California Governor
    The Governor of Illinois , Pat Quinn , in the high-profile signing of a law in 2012
    Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett visits National Guardsmen

    In general, the respective rights and duties of the governors differ from state to state or outer area to outer area, but can be limited to certain core areas. The governor's job is to direct all government affairs. The governor is often responsible for appointing and nominating cabinet members and other senior officials. The governor sets the respective government course and is responsible for it. The respective incumbent also has an important say in the legislative process of the state parliaments: like the US president at the federal level , the governor has a right of veto . This means that he can postpone or completely reject proposals by parliamentarians (usually many parliaments can override the veto with a two-thirds majority). In many states and suburbs, the right of veto also includes the option of rejecting only certain passages of the law, a so-called line item veto . The US President, for example, does not have this right at the federal level; he is limited to accepting a proposal or rejecting it completely. The laws passed by the state parliaments include all areas that are granted to the federal states as partially sovereign member states of the USA. Most outlying areas have a comparable degree of freedom in legal matters. These are all that have not been specifically assigned to Congress in Washington . Examples include the following areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the states: education (for the most part), infrastructure, criminal law, property law and electoral law, as well as certain areas of social and health care or civil rights. The budget of the state or the outer area also requires a resolution by the state parliaments and thus also the approval of the governor. If the governor agrees, he can immediately put a law into effect by signing it. The exception is the case that the legislature has determined a different date for the entry into force of the law. However, the governor can ignore a law that has been brought to him, which means that it comes into force after a few days even without a signature, if the head of state does not veto. The exact number of days varies by state. The governor is always the highest representative of his state in relation to other US states, the federal government in Washington and foreign powers. The position of governor is generally considered to be prestigious in the United States.

    The governors of most American states also have the right to pardon . The right to a pardon includes all violations of the laws of the state (including, in particular, criminal law). In those states that still practice the use of the death penalty , the governor can pardon a person sentenced to death. Pardons issued by governors or their rejection are usually accompanied by high media interest, even outside the United States.

    Based on the State of the Union Address of the President, governors are obliged by the constitutions of the states to address parliament, the so-called State of the State Address . In these publicly acclaimed addresses, which take place at the beginning of the year, the governor reports on the general situation; he can also use his speech to try to influence MPs in the legislative process. Otherwise the governor is excluded from the sessions of the parliaments.

    The governor is also the commander-in-chief of the state's National Guard . These militia troops can be used primarily for civilian aid in disasters, but also to restore public order (for example in the event of violent riots). The governor is generally responsible for public safety in his state.

    Election and term of office

    Most governors serve four years in office, with only New Hampshire and Vermont serving a two-year term. In some other states, two-year terms of office existed for their respective governors in the past, but many parliaments have repealed these regulations through a constitutional amendment. The elections always take place by direct ballot , i.e. not via an electoral system, as is the case with the US president . The candidate with the most votes is elected governor. Therefore, a relative majority is enough to win the election. The only exception to this is the state of Louisiana , where an absolute majority of the votes is required. If no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the votes, a runoff election takes place.

    All gubernatorial elections take place in November, usually in parallel with the congressional elections and the elections to the respective state and sub-parliaments (which usually consist of two chambers , except in Nebraska ), on the Tuesday after the first Monday of the month. In states with an election date in a year divisible by four, the election also takes place parallel to the president. After a new governor is elected, he or she is referred to as governor-elect (“elected governor”) unless a governor in office is re-elected. The handover always takes place in the following January, but the exact date differs between them. In California, for example, the governor is sworn in on the first Monday in January, in New York on January first, and in Texas on the third Tuesday in January. In states that do not set a calendar date, but a day of the week for the swearing-in (cf. California and Texas), a term of office can last up to a few days more or less than four years. With the swearing-in, a newly elected governor takes office. During the period between the election and the swearing-in, the previous incumbent remains in office, but in this phase usually has limited capacity to act ( Lame Duck ) , since the elected successor must also be prepared for the assumption of office.

    Even if the elections to the parliaments take place at the same time, the governor (as well as the lieutenant governor ) is elected completely independently of the legislature. For this reason it is possible that the incumbent incumbent belongs to a different party than the parliamentary majority. In this case, one speaks of the government Divided , that a "divided government." However, since the chambers of parliaments are important for legislation, it is always helpful as governor to secure the support of the MPs, without whom it is practically impossible to govern. The result is that the governor is theoretically independent of parliament, but in practice its support is of great importance. However, the respective parliaments do not have the option of simply voting out the governor (for example by means of a constructive vote of no confidence ). In many states, the only way to remove a head of government is through impeachment . The basis for this, however, is an illegal act; it is almost impossible to remove the governor from office for political or personal reasons. In a few states, the governor can be removed by the population before the end of the term of office (as happened in California in 2003 ). However, this recall election has so far only prevailed in a few federal states.

    In some states, terms of office are restricted so that re-election is only permitted once - immediately or after the term of office of another official. However, there are also states with no limit on terms of office, so that re-election is theoretically unlimited.


    Political party

    As of April 2019, 27 of the 50 governors are Republicans and 23 states have a Democratic incumbent . The US suburb of Puerto Rico currently has an independent ruler. Other parties, which generally play a subordinate role in the USA, do not provide a governor.

    Age and gender

    The current oldest governor is the Alabamian head of state Kay Ivey at the age of 76, Ron DeSantis from Florida at the age of 40 is currently the youngest holder of a governorship in the United States. The youngest ever governor was Stevens Mason , who was elected governor of Michigan in 1835 at the age of 24 .

    In currently six states (California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin), the passive voting age for governor is 18 years. South Dakota is the only state with a voting age of 21 years. Seven other states (Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, and Utah) require you to be at least 25 years of age to be elected governor. Oklahoma has the highest eligibility to stand for election of any 50 US states of 31 years. Vermont is the only US state to have no provision in its constitution, so that de jure a child can be elected governor there; the remaining 34 US states have 30 years of standing. (As of July 2019)

    Since seven young people ran for the office of governor in Kansas in 2018, the then incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer and the relevant state legislature raised the minimum age to 25 in the same year.

    Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first woman to be elected governor of the United States in 1924. She ruled the state of Wyoming from 1925 to 1927 .


    Currently, 21 of the 50 American governors are not born in the state in which they rule. Nor is it required for governorship to be a US citizen from birth. Born in Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

    Representation regulations

    In addition to the governor, 45 states and four outlying areas have a lieutenant governor . In 18 states the vice governor is elected completely independently (by the people), in two he is elected by the state senate and in 25 states he is elected together with the governor (similar to the US president and vice president ). In the case of a separate election, there is therefore the possibility that the lieutenant governor may belong to a different party than the governor.

    If the governor dies, resigns or is removed from office during his tenure, the lieutenant governor becomes the new governor. With the exception of three states ( New Jersey , Massachusetts and West Virginia ), the respective state constitution clearly regulates that the promoted lieutenant governor is also to be regarded as an actual governor and not just as an acting governor . If such a case arises, the successor lieutenant governor continues the previous term of office of his predecessor until its regular end (whereby the office of lieutenant governor often remains vacant until the next election). After the term of office has expired, the successor incumbent naturally has the option of having his or her office confirmed by the voters.

    In the five states without a lieutenant governor, either the President of the State Senate or the respective Secretary of State assumes the office of executive governor. It should be noted in general that an executive governor has the same powers as a "full" governor, but is not the actual holder of the office. So it is a purely technical distinction.

    Official seat and remuneration

    Governor's Mansion in Montgomery , residence of the Governor of Alabama

    Almost all governors have an official residence, usually called a Governor's Mansion . The governor has the right to live in this building for the duration of his term of office, where he is also granted domestic staff. There or in the respective state capitol, the governor has his office with a staff.

    In 2009, the average income of Governors was around 124,000 US dollars . The governor of the state of New York currently receives the highest salary at 179,000 US dollars, with the head of state of Maine bringing up the rear with 70,000 US dollars . Often, however, the governor is not the government employee with the highest salary. The respective parliaments have to decide on the regulation of remuneration.

    See also



    • David P. Redlawsk (Ed.): The American Governor: Power, Constraint, and Leadership in The States. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2015, ISBN 978-1-137-48818-3 .
    • Saladin M. Ambar: How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2012, ISBN 978-0-8122-4396-3 .
    • Clayton McClure Brooks (Ed.): A Legacy of Leadership: Governors and American History. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2008, ISBN 978-0-8122-4094-8 .
    • Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Jäger: Government system of the USA: teaching and manual. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 .
    • Karl-Heinz Röder: The political system of the USA. History and present. Pahl-Rugenstein 1990, ISBN 978-3-7609-1139-7 .

    Web links

    Commons : Seal of Governors  - collection of images, videos and audio files
    Commons : Flags of the Governors  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. (PDF; 117 kB) CRS Report, January 2003.
    2. Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Jäger: Government system of the USA: teaching and manual. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 , pp. 459 to 475
    3. Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Jäger: Government system of the USA: teaching and manual. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 , pp. 459 to 470
    4. Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Jäger: Government system of the USA: teaching and manual. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 , p. 470.
    5. Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Jäger: Government system of the USA: teaching and manual. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 , pp. 471 to 474