Local Politics 101: The Role of a Governor

Politics starts at the local level. In this series on our blog, we’re taking an in-depth look at local elected offices. As much as our lives are influenced by the legislators in Washington, our lives are significantly impacted by local elected officials, such as governors. Learn more about what a governor is, what a governor does, and how you can become one.

What is a Governor? 

A governor is the chief executive of the state. The governor is also the commander-in-chief of the National Guard in each state. Governors hold the highest power and executive authority as an elected official in all the states across the U.S. Following the governor, a lieutenant governor is the second-highest executive position held in all the states except in Maine, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Arizona, and Oregon. The lieutenant governor is second in the line of succession for governor. 

Fun Fact: 17 U.S. presidents served as state governors prior to their presidency. 

What are the responsibilities of a Governor? 

The responsibilities of a governor differ from state to state, which are laid out in the state’s constitution. A governor of a state is often compared to the president, but comparatively on a lower level, in terms of responsibilities and power. After the state legislature passes the bill, the governor signs the bill into law and implements it. Some of the other major responsibilities of a governor are overseeing executive branch operations, preparing and administering the state budget, holding special sessions of the state legislature, and appointing people to state offices, including the head of the National Guard. In most states, governors also hold the authority to appoint state court judges. Governors also deliver State of the State address. A governor has the power to veto legislation and issue an executive order as well. But not all governors have the authority to line-item veto. Under a state of crisis, the power of a governor increases fundamentally to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents. For example, statewide policies like lockdowns and mask mandates are the responsibility of the governor, under the 10th Amendment. 

What is the tenure of a Governor? 

The gubernatorial term limits range according to states and U.S. territories. In twenty-three states, including Alaska, Colorado, and New Jersey, and three territories—Guam, American Samoa, and U.S. Virgin Islands—a governor can serve for two four-year terms. Governors in those states and territories can get re-elected numerous times, but cannot hold office for more than two tenures in consecutive order. Similarly, the governors of Indiana and Oregon can only serve for two four-year terms during any twelve-year period. The governors of Wyoming and Montana are limited to eight years in office within any sixteen-year period. However, the term limits for governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are slightly different where the governor is elected for an unlimited two-year term. In eight states like California, Delaware and Oklahoma, and the Northern Mariana Islands, governors can only serve for two tenures of eight years. But governors in twelve states, such as New York, Texas, and Minnesota, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, can get elected for unlimited four-year terms.

Who can run for Governor? 

Governors are directly elected in all the U.S. states. The eligibility requirements to run for gubernatorial elections vary state by state. The basic requirements of minimum age, state residency, and U.S. citizenship vary diversely. Generally, the minimum age requirement of a candidate can range from no requirement to 35 years old at the time of the election. A candidate may be required to be a resident of the particular state, where he or she is running for the gubernatorial election, for at least seven years or no specification. Similarly, the U.S. citizenship requirements may also vary from no requirement to at least twenty years. 

Like every other elected official, such as a mayor, governors affect our lives. Make sure to use your political power to elect the gubernatorial candidate of your choice. You can learn more about your state governor here.  

At IGNITE, we’re here to help you own your political ambition and run for public office. Start training with us today!