Gubernatorial Power Comparison

So, to distract from the s*show that is the current news cycle, here’s a map that I’d like some input on. I’ve been trying to think more closely about an overall sense of what powers Governors have and which ones are stronger or weaker. Thinking about things like executive branch control (i.e. number of Row Officers), judicial appointment powers, selection of LGs, veto threshholds and influence on the legislature, term limits or lack thereof, etc. Here’s what I’ve come up with. I’d love to hear any comments about how to make changes.

Red = Extremely weak (the 6 states with no veto + NH, where the EC limits the Governor dramatically + NC, whose Gov has a veto but little else)
Orange = Somewhat weaker than average
Green = Average
Blue = Somewhat stronger than average
Gray = Imperial Governor (NJ)

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16 Comments

  • Republican Michigander November 12, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Good map, but how are the categories defined?

    Snyder here has veto/signature power similar to POTUS, can appoint many officers, and appoints judicial vacancies based on resignations (subject to retention election). Educational boards are elected. AG and Sec of State are also elected.


    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

    • shamlet November 12, 2017 at 11:33 am

      They’re not defined concretely. My issue is that there are a significant number of governors that are much more powerful in some ways and weaker in others. For example, Washington’s Gov doesn’t have term limits but has little control over the executive branch because there are so many Row Officers. I was just trying to give kind of a gestalt opinion.

      For example, some key things about Michigan are that there are few Row Officers (2), a 2/3 Veto threshhold, the Governor can pick the LG, and has significant judicial powers. That adds up to a fairly strong Governor.


      R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

      • roguemapper November 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

        Off the top of my head I would just suggest creating a point value system in order to assess competing variables as objectively as possible. So, term limits (or lack thereof) might be worth up to 20 points and extent of veto power might be worth up to 50 points. If you get some intuitively odd result then you can refine the overall point system and recalculate accordingly until it all seems right. Finally you can assign strong/average/weak cutoffs in the total point values. At least, that’s how I would do it.


        Dem NC-11

        • shamlet November 12, 2017 at 2:03 pm

          Open to suggestions on that… how would y’all assign point values?


          R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

    • Red Oaks November 12, 2017 at 11:48 am

      I think veto power is by far the most meaningful gubernatorial power. The states labeled in red all appear to be the ones that allow vetoes to be overridden with just 50% of the legislature.

      Michigan is certainly one of the most powerful governorships because of the 2/3 veto override threshold but also because there are only 2 elected row offices (compared to 9 in states like NC and I don’t consider the 4 elected education boards to be very meaningful), and the governor picks his LG running mate after the primary.

      I don’t consider term limits (except maybe VA’s single term limit) to be a notable factor in gubernatorial power. Even in states with no term limits it is unusual for governors to be in power more than eight straight years. For example, MN has apparently never had a governor stick around for more than 8 consecutive years even though they were theoretically eligible. New Hampshire has had only one serve more than 8 straight years dating back to the late 1700’s.


      MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

      • shamlet November 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

        Except NH. NH is in red because of the Executive Council, which has to approve spending decisions that essentially all Govs can make unilaterally.


        R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

  • w920us November 12, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I had always thought NC had the weakest governor.


    R, South Philly, 47, Gay, WFU Alum
    #TrumpVoter #NeverHillary

    • shamlet November 12, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Yeah, it’s definitely the weakest of the orange states. Having a 3/5 veto is basically the only significant power it has… I may tip it into the red category then.


      R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

      • segmentation_fault November 12, 2017 at 1:36 pm

        I would keep 50% veto override states in a category of their own. If a governor can veto they have leverage in the legislative process which is a fairly important power IMO.

      • Manhatlibertarian November 12, 2017 at 2:20 pm

        Yeah the NC Gov is weak. The Lt. Gov is elected separately as are 4 cabinet level positions: Ag, Insur,Labor and Ed. I don’t know of any other state where all 4 of these positions are elected separately.

        • segmentation_fault November 12, 2017 at 2:28 pm

          Georgia is one.

          The row offices in NC, except for maybe Attorney General and Treasurer, are not very powerful. They oversee some regulations and that’s about it. The Governor’s appointed cabinet members are probably more powerful.

          For example, the main thing the Labor Commissioner is known for is elevator inspections. Also, Sec of State is basically just a records keeper and doesn’t get to oversee elections like in other states. That’s an independent agency.

  • Conservative First November 12, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Good project.
    To make this less subjective, I would make a table with the relevant data on gubernatorial powers, and assign numerical rankings to them. Then (subjectively) weight the powers and add up the scores to create a gubernatorial power index. Then assign appropriate cutoffs and make a map based on this index. Although this doesn’t eliminate subjectivity, it should eliminate the problem of assuming what you are trying to prove.

  • Jon November 12, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    TN: The governor technically has a veto; but can be overridden by simple majority in both houses.


    45, M, MO-02

    • w920us November 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Speaking of Governors with simple majority overrides. Every state doesn’t have the same rules regarding override attempts. Do any of the states have automatic override attempts? And can the leader in each chamber singlehandedly block it’s attempt by preventing it being put on the legislative calendar?


      R, South Philly, 47, Gay, WFU Alum
      #TrumpVoter #NeverHillary

      • Jon November 13, 2017 at 7:11 pm

        Missouri has an annually scheduled veto override session; but only for bills vetoed X days before the regular session ended + any that were vetoed after the session ended.
        I don’t know if it’s automatic that each of those vetoed bills will be considered during the veto override session, but those are the only things allowed to be considered during it unless there’s a concurrent special session.

        Bills vetoed before date X are handled during what remains of that current regular session.


        45, M, MO-02

  • Red Oaks November 12, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Another factor I would consider in these ranking is availability/frequency of initiatives. If significant legislation can be passed directly by voters it means a governor’s power is more limited than in a state like New York, which has no initiatives.


    MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

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