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United States Governors

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  • Jim Guy Tucker, Governor
    James "Jim" Guy Tucker, Jr. (born June 13, 1943) is an Arkansas political figure. He served as the 43rd Governor of Arkansas, the 11th Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, Arkansas Attorney General, an...
  • John J. Hickey, Governor & U.S. Senator (1911 - 1970)
    John Joseph Hickey, a Senator from Wyoming; born in Rawlins, Carbon County, Wyo., August 22, 1911; attended the public schools; graduated with a law degree from the University of Wyoming in 1934; pra...
  • John J. Blaine, Governor & U.S. Senator (1875 - 1934)
    John James Blaine, a Senator from Wisconsin; born on a farm in Wingville Township, Grant County, Wis., May 4, 1875; attended the common schools; was graduated from the law department of Valparaiso (I...
  • Earl Ray Tomblin, Governor
    Earl Ray Tomblin (born March 15, 1952) is an American Democratic Party politician and the 35th and current Governor of West Virginia. Prior to becoming Governor, Tomblin served as President of the We...
  • Robert J. Bentley, Governor
    Robert Julian Bentley (born February 3, 1943) is an American politician and medical doctor who is the 53rd and current Governor of Alabama. A member of the Republican Party, Bentley was elected Gover...

United States Governors

In the United States, the title governor refers to the chief executive of each state or insular territory, not directly subordinate to the federal authorities, but the political and ceremonial head of the state.

Role and powers

The United States Constitution preserves the notion that the country is a federation of semi-sovereign states and that powers not specifically granted to the federal government are retained by the states. States, therefore, are not merely provinces or subdivisions of federal administration. State governments in the U.S. are relatively powerful; each state has its own independent criminal and civil law codes, and each state manages its internal government.

The governor thus heads the executive branch in each state or territory and, depending on the individual jurisdiction, may have considerable control over government budgeting, the power of appointment of many officials (including many judges), and a considerable role in legislation. The governor may also have additional roles, such as that of commander-in-chief of the state's National Guard (when not federalized), and in many states and territories the governor has partial or absolute power to commute or pardon a criminal sentence. All U.S. governors serve four-year terms except those in New Hampshire and Vermont, who serve two-year terms.

In all states, the governor is directly elected, and in most cases has considerable practical powers, though this may be moderated by the state legislature and in some cases by other elected executive officials. In the five extant U.S. territories, all governors are now directly elected as well, though in the past many territorial governors were historically appointed by the President of the United States. Governors can veto state bills, and in all but seven states they have the power of the line-item veto on appropriations bills (a power the President does not have). In some cases legislatures can override a gubernatorial veto by a two-thirds vote, in others by three-fifths. In Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote, making it virtually useless. In Arkansas, a gubernatorial veto may be overridden by an absolute majority. The Governor of North Carolina had no veto power until a 1996 referendum. In 47 states, whenever there is a vacancy of one of the state's U.S. Senate seats, that state's governor has the power to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until a special election is held; the governors of Oregon, Alaska, and Wisconsin do not have this power.

A state governor may give an annual State of the State address in order to satisfy a constitutional stipulation that a governor must report annually (or in older constitutions described as being "from time to time") on the state or condition of the state. Governors of states may also perform ceremonial roles, such as greeting dignitaries, conferring state decorations, issuing symbolic proclamations or attending the state fair. The governor may also have an official residence (see Governor's Mansion).

Beyle, in a ranking of the power of the governorship in all 50 states, makes the distinction between "personal powers" of governors, which are factors that vary from person to person, season to season- and the "institutional powers" that are set in place by law. Examples of measurable personal factors are how large a governor's margin of victory was on election day, and where he stands in public opinion polls. Whether a governor has strong budget controls, appointment authority, and veto powers are examples of institutional powers.

Links to Governors by State