Lieutenant governor (United States)

Last updated
Method for electing the lieutenant governor.
Same ticket
Same ticket in the general election, separate election in the primaries
Separate election
Title given to leader of state senate
Position nonexistent Methods for electing lieutenant governors.svg
Method for electing the lieutenant governor.
  Same ticket
  Same ticket in the general election, separate election in the primaries
  Separate election
  Title given to leader of state senate
  Position nonexistent

In the United States, 45 of the 50 states have an office of lieutenant governor. In two of the 45 states, the speaker of the upper house of the state legislature serves in such a capacity. In most cases, the lieutenant governor is the highest officer of state after the governor, standing in for that officer when they are absent from the state or temporarily incapacitated. In the event a governor dies, resigns or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor typically becomes governor.


In 26 states, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected on the same ticket, ensuring that they come from the same political party. In the remaining 18 states, they are elected separately and, thus, may come from different parties. The lieutenant governor is also frequently the presiding officer of the upper house of the state legislature, similar to the Vice President of the United States. Among the seven states without a separate, full-time office of lieutenant governor, two states have a post of lieutenant governor that is filled by the highest officer of the State Senate. In Tennessee, the full title of the leader of the Senate is "lieutenant governor and speaker of the Senate". In West Virginia, the title of lieutenant governor is assigned by statute to the Senate President. With the exception of Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia, every state has had a female lieutenant governor or equivalent.

In Maine, the presiding officer of the State Senate assumes the governor's office upon a vacancy, while in New Hampshire, the presiding officer of the State Senate assumes only the governor's powers and duties (becomes acting governor) upon a vacancy. In the remaining three states – Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming – the Secretary of State becomes governor upon the office's vacancy. The U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands have the office of lieutenant governor. In Puerto Rico, the appointed Secretary of State becomes governor upon the office's vacancy while the Chief of Staff is typically the highest office after the governor.

Lieutenant governors are the only officials with specific duties and powers in two branches of state government: the executive and legislative branches. More than half of the NLGA members preside over their state senate. Most pursue legislative initiatives; many testify locally and in Washington D.C. in various capacities; some serve on the governors’ cabinets, while others maintain varied portfolios of duties. In many states, the duties of lieutenant governor are increased by legislation to include the lieutenant governor on state boards, commissions and task forces."

Since Alaska, Hawaii and Utah do not have a Secretary of State, the lieutenant governor performs the duties generally granted to that office. In New Jersey, the governor must appoint the lieutenant governor to head a cabinet-level department or administrative agency within the state government's executive branch—but not to the post of state attorney general, [2] Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno also served as Secretary of State from 2010 to 2018. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas plays an active role as presiding officer of the State Senate and is often rumored to be more powerful than the state governor. [3] The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia also serves as the President of the Senate, as do about half the lieutenant governors. [4]

The positions are sometimes criticized for lacking duties and power and described by political insiders as "get up, read the paper, see if the governor is dead, if not, go back to sleep". [5] In the 2010 election for the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, 40% of the vote was won by Robert J. Healey, a perennial candidate who wanted to abolish the office, [6] saying "If you open up the dictionary to ‘sinecure,’ you have a picture of the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island".

New Jersey

In November 2005, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to create the office of lieutenant governor, which became effective with the 2009 general election. The state's first lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, took office in January 2010.

The position was created in response to the unusual circumstances surrounding the aftermath of the 2001 gubernatorial election. Senate President Donald DiFrancesco became acting governor earlier that year after Christine Todd Whitman resigned to take office as EPA Administrator. DiFrancesco's term as Senate president expired one week before governor-elect Jim McGreevey assumed office in January 2002, and the 2001 State Senate elections resulted in the balance of the New Jersey Senate being tied between the two parties. Due to the tie, Democrat Richard Codey and Republican John O. Bennett were elected as Senate Co-Presidents, and in the 90-minute period between the expiration of DiFrancesco's term and the swearing-in of Codey and Bennett, State Attorney General John Farmer Jr. served as acting governor due to the position of Senate President being vacant. Subsequently, Bennett and Codey served as governor for three days each until McGreevey took office. All told, five people had served as governor or acting governor in the space of eight days.

States and territories without a lieutenant governor


In Arizona, the secretary of state is the first in line to succeed the governor in the event of death, disability, resignation, or removal from office. The line of succession also includes the attorney general, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. [7]


In Maine, if the governor cannot serve, the immediate successor is the Senate president. [8] [9]

New Hampshire

Whenever the governor dies, resigns, is removed from office or unable to perform the duties of office, the Senate president serves as "acting governor". [10]


The gubernatorial line of succession is set forth in the state constitution, at Article V, Section 8a. It defines who may become or act as the governor of Oregon upon the incapacity, death, resignation, or removal from office (by impeachment and subsequent removal or recall) of a sitting governor. The current chain of succession is: secretary of State, State treasurer, president of the State Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives. When a governor leaves office, the next available elected individual in the succession becomes governor until the next general biennial election, when a governor will be elected to either serve out the last two years of a regular term or a new four-year term. [11] See: line of succession. In 2007, legislation was proposed to establish an office of lieutenant governor. [12]


In Wyoming, the secretary of state stands first in the line of succession. [13]

Puerto Rico

The highest-ranking officer after the governor of Puerto Rico is the Chief of Staff who is appointed by the governor himself rather than elected. In terms of line of succession, the secretary of State of Puerto Rico acts as acting governor when the governor is temporarily disabled or unable to discharge his duties. If there is a permanent vacancy in the governorship, the Constitution of Puerto Rico establishes that the secretary becomes governor for the remainder of the term. The Secretary of State also serves as acting governor whenever the governor is temporarily not present in Puerto Rico, with territorial law also establishing a line of succession for when both the governor and the secretary are unable to perform their duties.

See also

Related Research Articles

Governor of New York Head of state and of government of the U.S. state of New York

The Governor of New York is the head of government of the U.S. state of New York. The governor is the head of the executive branch of New York's state government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military and naval forces.

Government of Puerto Rico Government of Puerto Rico

The government of Puerto Rico is a republican form of government with separation of powers, subject to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United States. Article I of the Constitution of Puerto Rico defines the government and its political power and authority pursuant to U.S. Pub.L. 82–447. Said law mandated the establishment of a local constitution due to Puerto Rico's political status as a commonwealth of the United States. Ultimately, the powers of the government of Puerto Rico are all delegated by Congress and lack full protection under the U.S. Constitution. Because of this, the head of state of Puerto Rico is the President of the United States.

United States presidential line of succession Order by which officers of the U.S. federal government fill the vacant office of president of the U.S.

The United States presidential line of succession is the order in which officials of the United States federal government assume the powers and duties of the office of president of the United States if the incumbent president becomes incapacitated, dies, resigns, or is removed from office. Presidential succession is referred to multiple times in the U.S. Constitution – Article II, Section 1, Clause 6, as well as the 12th Amendment, 20th Amendment, and 25th Amendment. The vice president of the United States is designated as first in the presidential line of succession by the Article II succession clause, which also authorizes Congress to provide for a line of succession beyond the vice president; it has done so on three occasions. The current Presidential Succession Act was adopted in 1947, and last revised in 2006.

President of the Senate is a title often given to the presiding officer of a senate. It corresponds to the speaker in some other assemblies.

Governor of Oklahoma head of state and of government of the U.S. state of Oklahoma

The Governor of Oklahoma is the head of state for the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the Oklahoma executive branch, of the government of Oklahoma. The governor is the ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Oklahoma National Guard when not called into federal use. Despite being an executive branch official, the governor also holds legislative and judicial powers. The governor's responsibilities include making yearly "State of the State" addresses to the Oklahoma Legislature, submitting the annual state budget, ensuring that state laws are enforced, and that the peace is preserved. The governor's term is four years in length.

Governor of Puerto Rico Head of government of the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico

The governor of Puerto Rico is the executive of Puerto Rico as its head of state and head of government and, by its nature, constitutes the executive branch of the government of the island. The governor is also the commander-in-chief of the island's military forces, the Puerto Rico National Guard.

An acting governor is a person who acts in the role of governor. In Commonwealth jurisdictions where the governor is a vice-regal position, the role of "acting governor" may be filled by a lieutenant governor or an administrator.

Secretary of state (U.S. state government) official in the state governments of the United States

Secretary of state is an official in the state governments of 47 of the 50 states of the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, this official is called the secretary of the commonwealth. In states that have one, the secretary of state is the chief clerk of the state, and is often the primary custodian of important state records. In the states of Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah, there is no secretary of state; in those states many duties that a secretary of state might normally execute fall within the domain of the lieutenant governor. Like the lieutenant governor, in most states the secretary of state is in the line of succession to succeed the governor, in most cases immediately behind the lieutenant governor. In three states with no lieutenant governor as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the secretary of state is first in the line of succession in the event of a gubernatorial vacancy.

Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey

The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is an elected constitutional officer in the executive branch of the state government of New Jersey in the United States. The lieutenant governor is the second highest-ranking official in the state government and is elected concurrently on a ticket with the governor for a four-year term. Because the position itself does not carry any powers or duties other than to be next in the order of succession, the state constitution requires that the lieutenant governor be appointed to serve as the head of a cabinet-level department or administrative agency within the governor's administration.

Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma second-highest executive official of the state government of Oklahoma

The Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma is the second-highest executive official of the state government of Oklahoma. As first in the gubernatorial line of succession, the lieutenant governor becomes the new governor of Oklahoma upon the death, resignation, or removal of the governor. The lieutenant governor also serves as the president of the Oklahoma Senate, and may cast a vote to break ties in that chamber.

Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin

The Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin is the first person in the line of succession of Wisconsin's executive branch, thus serving as governor in the event of the death, resignation, removal, impeachment, absence from the state, or incapacity due to illness of the Governor of Wisconsin. The position was first filled by John Edwin Holmes on June 7, 1848, the year that Wisconsin became a state.

Louisiana State Senate

The Louisiana State Senate is the upper house of the state legislature of Louisiana. All senators serve four-year terms and are assigned to multiple committees.

The President of the West Virginia Senate is a member of the West Virginia Senate who has been elected to be its president by the other senators. The current Senate President is Mitch Carmichael, who has been in office since January 2017.

Governor (United States) position of the head of the government of a state or territory of the United States

In the United States, a governor serves as the chief executive officer and commander-in-chief in each of the fifty states and in the five permanently inhabited territories, functioning as both head of state and head of government therein. As such, governors are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. As state leaders, governors advance and pursue new and revised policies and programs using a variety of tools, among them executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes. Governors carry out their management and leadership responsibilities and objectives with the support and assistance of department and agency heads, many of whom they are empowered to appoint. A majority of governors have the authority to appoint state court judges as well, in most cases from a list of names submitted by a nominations committee.

Lieutenant Governor of Indiana position

The Lieutenant Governor of Indiana is a constitutional office in the US State of Indiana. Republican Suzanne Crouch, who assumed office 9 January 2017, is the incumbent. The office holder's constitutional roles are to serve as President of the Indiana Senate, become acting governor during the incapacity of the governor, and become governor should the incumbent governor resign, die in office, or be impeached and removed from office. Lieutenant governors have succeeded ten governors following their deaths or resignations. The lieutenant governor holds statutory positions, serving as the head of the state agricultural and rural affairs bureaus, and as the chairman of several state committees. The annual salary of the lieutenant governor is $88,000.

Government of Kansas

The government of the U.S. state of Kansas, established by the Kansas Constitution, is a republican democracy modeled after the Federal Government of the United States. The state government has three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Through a system of separation of powers, or "checks and balances," each of these branches has some authority to act on its own, and also some authority to regulate the other two branches, so that all three branches can limit and balance the others' authority.

Executive branch of the government of Puerto Rico Chief executive body of Puerto Rico

The executive branch of the government of Puerto Rico is responsible for executing the laws of Puerto Rico, as well as causing them to be executed. Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico vests the executive power on the Governor—whom by its nature forms the executive branch.

Gubernatorial lines of succession in the United States

The following is the planned order of succession for the governorships of the 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and the 5 organized territories of the United States, according to the constitutions of each. Some states make a distinction whether the succeeding individual is acting as governor or becomes governor.



  1. South Carolina switched to same-ticket following the 2018 elections.
  2. New Jersey State Constitution (1947), Article V, Section I, paragraph 10 (as amended, effective January 17, 2006)
  3. Texas Observer: Who Runs Texas
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2011-12-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Marinucci, Carla (January 22, 2011). "Gavin Newsom faces political challenges in new job". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. Archived August 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  7. See: Arizona#State executive branch.
  8. See: Governor of Maine#Succession.
  9. "Office of the President of the Senate". Maine State Legislature. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  10. See: New Hampshire#Branches of government.
  12. "Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to create elective office of Lieutenant Governor". Oregon State Legislature. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  13. See: Wyoming#State law and government.