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The Next Vice President Will Be … A Former Governor

Contact: John Weingart
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The Next Vice President Will Be… A Former Governor



Indiana Governor Mike Pence


Virginia Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine

As Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s running mates take their turn in the campaign spotlight this week, we are reminded of one near-certainty in this most uncertain of presidential cycles: the next vice-president will almost definitely be a past or present governor.

Both major party candidates who will take the stage for the vice presidential debate on Tuesday have gubernatorial experience. Tim Kaine (D) is currently serving in the U.S. Senate, but previously served one term as the governor of Virginia (2006-2010), the maximum allowed under that state’s constitution. Mike Pence (R) is the current governor of Indiana (2013-present). Even if the Libertarian ticket scores an upset in November, the vice-president will still be a former governor: William Weld (L), the former Republican governor of Massachusetts (1991-1997).*

Is this common? Not in recent years, according to the Center on the American Governor, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

In fact, since 1920 when Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge was elected as Warren Harding’s running mate, only two sitting or former governors have served as vice-president—Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew (1967-1969), who was elected with Richard Nixon in 1968 and again in 1972, and former governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller (1959-1973) who was appointed to the vice presidency in 1974 and served until January 1977. While a total of sixteen sitting or former governors became vice-presidents, half served before 1864.

Indeed, even the appearance of governors on the vice-presidential line of major party tickets bucks recent trends. From 1980 through 2012, only one major party candidate for president picked a running mate with gubernatorial experience: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008, with his selection of Alaska Governor (2006-2009) Sarah Palin (R).

For more on the history of governors as vice-president, see below or visit the Center on the American Governor website.


Governors Selected To Be Vice President

Elections of 1789-1864 (75 years) Elections of 1868-1920 (52 years) Elections of 1924-2008 (84 years)
1796  Thomas Jefferson (VA) 1884  Thomas A. Hendricks (IN) 1968  Spiro Agnew (MD)
1804  George Clinton (NY) 1888   Levi P. Morton (NY) 1974  Nelson Rockefeller (NY)
1812  Elbridge Gerry (MA) 1900  Theodore Roosevelt (NY)
1816  Daniel D. Tompkins (NY) 1912  Thomas R. Marshall
1832  Martin Van Buren (NY) 1920   Calvin Coolidge (MA)
1840  John Tyler (VA)
1860  Hannibal Hamlin (ME)
1884  Andrew Johnson (TN)


Of the 16 governors who became vice-president:

  • Five served under a President who had also been a governor:
    – George Clinton (NY) served under Thomas Jefferson (VA)
    – Daniel Tompkins (NY) served under James Monroe (VA)
    – Thomas Hendricks (IN) served under Grover Cleveland (NY)
    – Theodore Roosevelt (NY) served under William McKinley (OH)
    – Thomas Marshall (IN) served under Woodrow Wilson (NJ).
  • Six went on to become president:
    – Thomas Jefferson (VA) won election in 1800, and again in 1804
    – Martin Van Buren (NY) won election in 1836
    – John Tyler ascended (VA) following President William Henry Harrison’s (OH) death in 1841
    – Andrew Johnson (TN) ascended following President Abraham Lincoln’s (IL) death in 1865
    – Theodore Roosevelt (NY) ascended following President William McKinley’s (OH) death in 1901,
    then won election in 1904
    – Calvin Coolidge (MA) ascended following President Warren Harding’s (OH) death in 1923,
    then won election in 1924.
  • Six came from New York, two each from Indiana, Massachusetts and Virginia, and one each from Maine, Maryland and Tennessee:


New York (6)
– George Clinton 1804, 1808
– Daniel Tompkins 1816
– Martin Van Buren 1832
– Levi Morton 1888
– Theodore Roosevelt 1900
– Nelson Rockefeller 1974 (appointed)
 Indiana (2)
– Thomas A. Hendricks 1884
– Thomas Marshall 1912
 Massachusetts (2)
– Elbridge Gerry 1812
– Calvin Coolidge 1920
 Virginia (2)
– Thomas Jefferson 1795
– John Tyler 1840
 Maine (1)
– Hannibal Hamlin 1860
 Maryland (1)
– Spiro Agnew 1968
 Tennessee (1)
– Andrew Johnson 1860


*Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s running mate, Ajami Baraka, is not a past or present governor.