skip to main content

CAG News & Alerts

Center on the American Governor > On Governors > U.S. Governors > Fast Facts about American Governors

Fast Facts about American Governors

updated August 2017


Twelve states held gubernatorial elections in 2016: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. Five of those races featured incumbents, with four successfully defending their seats: Steve Bullock (D-MT), Kate Brown (D-OR), Gary Herbert (R-UT), and Jay Inslee (D-WA).The fifth, Pat McRory (R-NC) narrowly lost to challenger Roy Cooper (D-NC), the only seat Democrats picked up in 2016.

In the open races, Republicans picked up seats formerly held by Democrats in three states—MO, NH, and VT—and protected seats in IN and ND. Democrats did not pick up any open seats formerly held by Republicans, but did defend seats in DE and WV.** As a result, Republicans picked up a net of two seats in this election, expanding their already-historic lead among the nation’s governorships. As of August 2017, there are 34 Republican governors, 15 Democrats, and 1 Independent. This is the most governorships held at one time by either party since 1984, when the Democrats held 34 seats.

**West Virginia Governor Jim Justice was elected as a Democrat but changed his party affiliation to Republican in August 2017. Republicans thereby picked up another seat, bringing the total to 34 governorships held by Republicans.

 2016 Results

State Incumbent Governor-Elect
Delaware Jack Markell (D) John Carney (D)
Indiana Mike Pence (R) Eric Holcomb (R)
Missouri Jay Nixon (D) Eric Greitens (R)
Montana Steve Bullock (D)* Steve Bullock (D)
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan (D) Chris Sununu (R)
North Carolina Pat McCrory (R)* Roy Cooper (D)
North Dakota Jack Dalrymple (R) Doug Burgum (R)
Oregon Kate Brown (D)* Kate Brown (D)
Utah Gary Herbert (R)* Gary Herbert (R)
Vermont Peter Shumlin (D) Phil Scott (R)
Washington Jay Inslee (D)* Jay Inslee (D)
West Virginia Earl Ray Tomblin (D) Jim Justice (D)**

*ran for re-election

**ran as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party in August 2017


Only two states—Virginia and New Jersey—will hold gubernatorial elections in 2017. For more information on these races, see below.

Below are some fast facts about the nation’s 50 governors. Click all images to enlarge.

Thanks to Rutgers undergraduate Fatima Naqvi for her help in updating the page which was originally compiled with assistance from former Rutgers student Keith Pakela (class of 2015).


Political Party


34 Republicans
15 Democrats
+1 Independent (Bill Walker, I-AK)

The Republican Party picked up a net 2 seats in 2016. Republicans picked up another seat in 2017 when Gov. Jim Justice (WV) switched parties from Democrat to Republican. The 34 governorships currently held by Republicans is the most held by one party since 1984.




Partisan control of government

State Legislature
Governor      Democratic   Republican    Divided Total
  Democrat   6   6 3 15
Republican   7 25 1   33*
Independent   0  0 1   1
Total: 13 31 5   49*

  * Nebraska has a unicameral, non-partisan legislature




Gender July 2017


As of May 24, 2017, six of the nation’s governors are women (Kay Ivey, AL; Kim Reynolds, IA; Susana Martinez, NM; Mary Fallin, OK; Kate Brown, OR; Gina Raimondo, RI).

For information about all women governors in the nation’s history, please view the Center on American Women and Politics fact sheet on women governors here.









Forty-seven of the nation’s governors are white.  There are two Hispanic governors (Susana Martinez, NM; Brian Sandoval, NV) and one Asian governor (David Ige, HI).

There are currently no African-American governors in the United States.






19 Roman Catholic
+5 Presbyterian
+4 Baptist
+2 Congregationalist
+2 Evangelical
+3 Jewish
+4 Christian
+4 No religion listed*
+1 Buddhist
+1 Quaker
+1 Lutheran
+1 Protestant
+1 Methodist
+1 Mormon
+1 Episcopalian

*Note: Governors who have not declared a specific religious denomination have been categorized as “no religion listed.” This does not necessarily indicate that they are agnostic or atheist.


Military Service

Ten governors have served in the Armed Forces.

41 No military service
+4 Army (Nathan Deal, GA; Matt Bevin, KY; John Bel Edwards, LA; Henry McMaster, SC
+++(Army Reserve))
+2 National Guard (Butch Otter, ID; Gary Herbert, UT)
+3 Navy (Rick Scott, FL; Eric Holcomb, IN; Eric Greitens, MO)




(age at first inauguration)

Age July 2017

Average:  56.12

Youngest (current age):  42 (Chris Sununu; born on November 5, 1974)

Oldest (current age):  78 (Jerry Brown, D-CA; born on April 7, 1938)





Marital status

47  currently married
+3  currently divorced and/or single





+govchildchart2017upd3  have no children
+3  have 1 child
14  have 2 children
18  have 3 children
+6  have 4 children
+2  have 5 children
+3  have 6 children
+1  has 9 children

Average     2.92 children





36  advanced degree
49  Bachelors degree
+1  Attended college but did not receive degree (Scott Walker, WI)
+1  Rhodes Scholar (Gina Raimondo, RI)
+3  Doctorate (Ph.D.) (Eric Greitens, MO – Development Studies; Tom Wolf, PA – Political Science; Gina
+++Raimondo, RI – Sociology)
+4  Masters degree (MA) (John Carney, DE – Public Administration; John Hickenlooper, CO – Geology; Phil
+++Bryant, MS – Political Science; Tom Wolf, PA – Philosophy)
+7  Masters in Business (MBA) (Bruce Rauner, IL; David Ige, HI; Charlie Baker, MA; Paul LePage, ME; Rick
+++Snyder, MI; Pete Ricketts, NE; Jim Justice, WV)
22  Law degree (JD)



Previous elected experience

The nation’s governors bring a variety of past professional experiences with them into the office.  One was previously governor and has now returned to the office (Jerry Brown, CA). Nearly three decades passed between Brown’s terms in the governor’s chair.  Many others have served in the legislative branch of state and federal government, as well as in a variety of executive positions.

The number of governors who have served in selected offices is below. For a more extensive look at the prior experience of governors, see the 2017 Governors’ Previous Experience Chart. Some governors are counted in more than one category, as they have served in more than one office.

+1    previously served as governor and have returned to office
+8    in the lower chamber of their state government
+6    in the upper chamber of their state government
+9    in the United States House of Representatives
+2    in the United States Senate (Kansas and Minnesota)

11    lieutenant governor
+7    state attorney general
+4    state treasurer
+1    state Supreme Court Justice

14    no prior elective office

+++++6 of the 14 previously held non-elected government or political offices (Eric Holcomb, R-IN (Chairman of
+++++the Indiana Republican Party and Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Dan Coats); Larry Hogan, R-MD
+++++(Secretary of Appointments); Charlie Baker, R-MA (state Secretary of Health and Human Services); Tom
+++++Wolf, D-PA (Secretary of Revenue); Terry McAuliffe, D-VA (Chairman of the Democratic National
+++++Committee); Matt Mead, R-WY (U.S. Attorney)

+++++8 of the 14 did not hold a governmental or political office before becoming governor (Rick Scott, R-FL;
+++++Bruce Rauner, R-IL; Rick Snyder, R-MI; Eric Greitens, R-MO; Pete Ricketts, R-NE; Doug Burgum, R-ND; Jim
+++++Justice, D-WV; Matt Bevin, KY)*

*Note: Ricketts and Bevin previously ran for Senate and Rauner was an adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


Place of birth

12   not born in the state they now lead
+3   born in Pennsylvania (more than any other state:  John Hickenlooper, D-CO; John Kasich, R-OH;
+++Tom Wolf, D-PA)
+1   born outside the United States (Kate Brown, D-OR; born in Spain)


Looking Ahead

Only two states will hold gubernatorial elections in 2017: New Jersey and Virginia. Both will be open races, as neither incumbent–Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Terry McAuliffe (D-VA)–is eligible to run for re-election.


In Virginia, Democrats Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and former Congressman Tom Perriello will face off in the primary for the right to attempt to defend the seat for the party. Meanwhile, political strategist and “establishment Republican” Ed Gillespie is considered the front-runner to win the Republican primary, but he will be challenged by Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart, who ran Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign. State Senator Frank Wagner and former Air Force intelligence officer and current businessman and craft brewer Denver Riggleman have also indicated they will seek the nomination.

In New Jersey, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, businessman Joseph Rullo and Nutley Township Commissioner Steve Rogers have officially announced they will seek the nomination. Comedian Joe Piscopo has also indicated interest, but has not made a formal announcement. Piscopo may also consider running as an Independent.

The Democratic side features a number of candidates with one heavy favorite. Businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy is considered the favorite to win the nomination (and the governorship). His primary challenge will come from Assemblyman John Wisniewski, State Senator Ray Lesniak, and former Undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Jim Johnson. A number of lower-profile Democrats have also indicated they will run, including activist Bill Brennan, former priest Bob Hoatson, pharmaceutical sales rep Monica Brinson, publisher Lisa McCormick, Tenafly councilman Mark Zinna, and banker Titus Pierce.

While 2017 is a quiet year in gubernatorial races, next year will be much different. Thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial elections in 2018.


Return to top