Puneet Varma (Editor)

Governor of California

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The Honorable

December 20, 1849

Inaugural holder
Peter Hardeman Burnett

Gavin Newsom

Governor of California

California Governor's Mansion

Term length
Four years, renewable once

The Governor of California is the chief executive of the California state government, commander-in-chief of the California National Guard and the California State Military Reserve, whose responsibilities also include making annual State of the State addresses to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced. The position was created in 1849, the year before California became a state. The current governor is Jerry Brown, a Democrat who was inaugurated January 3, 2011, and who had previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983. In October 2013, Jerry Brown surpassed Earl Warren for the longest cumulative period of time served as governor.


Gubernatorial elections, oath, and term of office

Governors are elected by popular ballot and serve terms of four years, with a limit of two terms, if served after November 6, 1990. Governors take the following oath:

I (Governor) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

Governors take office on the first Monday after January 1 after their election.

Gubernatorial removal

There are two methods available to remove a governor before the expiration of the gubernatorial term of office.

Impeachment and removal by the legislature

The governor can be impeached for "misconduct in office" by the State Assembly and removed by a two-thirds vote of the State Senate.

Recall by the voters
Petitions signed by California state voters equal in number to 12% of the last vote for the office of governor (with signatures from each of 5 counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for governor in the county) can launch a gubernatorial recall election. The voters can then vote on whether or not to recall the incumbent governor, and on the same ballot they can vote a potential replacement. If a majority of the voters in the election vote to recall the governor, then the person who gains a plurality of the votes in the replacement race will become governor.

The 2003 California recall began with a petition drive that successfully forced sitting Democratic Governor Gray Davis into a special recall election. It marked the first time in the history of California that a governor faced a recall election. He was subsequently voted out of office, becoming the second governor in the history of the United States to be recalled after Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. He was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Relationship with Lieutenant Governor of California

The Lieutenant Governor of California is separately elected during the same election, not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. California has had a governor and a lieutenant governor of different parties 26 of the past 31 years. This occasionally becomes significant, since the California Constitution provides that all the powers of the governor fall to the lieutenant governor whenever the governor is not in the state of California, with the lieutenant governor often signing or vetoing legislation, or making political appointments, whenever the governor leaves the state. The lieutenant governor is also the President of the California State Senate. In practice, there is a gentlemen's agreement for the Lieutenant Governor not to perform more than perfunctory duties while the Governor is away from the state. This agreement was violated when Mike Curb was in office, as he signed several executive orders at odds with the Brown administration when Brown was out of the state. Court rulings have upheld the lieutenant governor's right to perform the duties and assume all of the prerogatives of governor while the governor is out of the state.

Age and longevity

  • Peter Burnett had the longest post-governorship, 44 years. He left office in 1851 and died in 1895.
  • Excluding governors who died in office, Robert Waterman had the shortest post-governorship. He died on April 12, 1891, a short three months and four days after the expiration of his term.
  • Sworn in at the age of 30, J. Neely Johnson was the youngest governor from 1856 to 1858.
  • Sworn in at the age of 72, Jerry Brown became the oldest governor in 2011.
  • Earl Warren was the only governor to serve more than two consecutive terms in office (1943–1953).
  • Jerry Brown previously served as governor for eight years (1975–1983) and returned to office 28 years later to serve as the incumbent governor (since 2011).
  • Milton Latham served the shortest term in office of five days (January 9–14, 1860).
  • Of the 38 governors who held office, seven of them were born in California (six of them after statehood):
  • One (Romualdo Pacheco) was born in Santa Barbara.
  • Four (George Pardee, James Rolph, Pat Brown, and Jerry Brown) were born in San Francisco.
  • One (Hiram Johnson) was born in Sacramento.
  • One (Earl Warren) was born in Los Angeles.
  • Two governors were not born in the United States:
  • John G. Downey was born in Ireland.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria.
  • Only two governors have died in office:
  • Washington Bartlett on September 12, 1887
  • James Rolph on June 2, 1934
  • Ronald Reagan had the longest life-span of any governor, 93 years.
  • J. Neely Johnson had the shortest life-span of any governor, 47 years.
  • Both governors who died in office, Washington Bartlett in 1887 and James Rolph in 1934, served as Mayor of San Francisco shortly before becoming governor.
  • Two governors are related:
  • Pat Brown (1959–1967) was the father of twice-governor Jerry Brown (1975–1983, 2011 to present).
  • Transition events

  • Five governors have resigned:
  • Peter Burnett in 1851 "as a result of certain personal prejudices" in favor of slavery
  • Milton Latham in 1860 to become a United States Senator
  • Newton Booth in 1875 to become a United States Senator
  • Hiram Johnson in 1917 to become a United States Senator
  • Earl Warren in 1953 to become Chief Justice of the United States
  • One governor has been recalled:
  • Gray Davis in 2003
  • Seven governors took office without being elected to the governor's seat, having been elected as lieutenant governor and then ascending from that position:
  • Four of them did not run to succeed themselves, and were never elected governor:
  • John McDougall in 1851
  • John G. Downey in 1860
  • Romualdo Pacheco in 1875
  • Robert Waterman in 1887
  • The other three later ran for governor, and were elected to succeed themselves as governor:
  • William Stephens in 1917
  • Frank Merriam in 1934
  • Goodwin Knight in 1953
  • One governor has served two terms, and was elected to a non-consecutive third term:
  • Jerry Brown in 2010 (Brown and George Deukmejian are the most recent living former governors of California who were elected to two terms before the term limits were enacted on November 6, 1990)
  • Presidential campaigns

  • One former governor of California won his party's nomination and was elected President of the United States:
  • Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (Republican)
  • Five governors actively sought the nomination of their party, but were unsuccessful:
  • Hiram Johnson in 1920 and 1924 (Republican)
  • Pat Brown in 1960 (Democratic)
  • Jerry Brown in 1976, 1980 and 1992 (Democratic)
  • Ronald Reagan in 1968 and 1976 (Republican)
  • Pete Wilson in 1996 (Republican)
  • Two governors were nominated for Vice President, but their ticket lost the election:
  • Hiram Johnson (Ran with Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive, 1912)
  • Earl Warren (Ran with Thomas Dewey, Republican, 1948)
  • Two governors did not run for president, but were under serious consideration by their party's nominee during their governorship to be their running mate for the office of Vice President, but were not chosen:
  • George Deukmejian (George H.W. Bush, Republican, 1988) declined being considered because of his vast ideological differences with Lieutenant Governor Leo McCarthy, who would have become governor if Deukmejian accepted the nomination and was elected to the Vice Presidency.
  • Gray Davis (Al Gore, Democratic, 2000)
  • One unsuccessful candidate for governor of California was elected President of the United States:
  • Former Vice President Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee for Governor of California in 1962, and lost to Democrat Pat Brown. Nixon later was elected president in 1968 and reelected in 1972 (Republican).
  • References

    Governor of California Wikipedia