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

Fast Facts about American Governors

updated May 2019

Overview

2019 map newThirty-six states held gubernatorial elections in 2018, leading to a significant amount of turnover in the nation’s governors seats.

Going into 2018, Republicans held 33 governorships, while Democrats held only 16. The governor of Alaska—Bill Walker—was an Independent. The Republicans picked up that Alaska seat when Mike Dunleavy (R) defeated former Senator Mark Begich (D).

That was the only governorship Republicans would pick up, however, while Democrats won in seven key states: Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Illinois and Wisconsin were particularly notable, as Democrats J.B. Pritzker (IL) and Tony Evers (WI) defeated incumbent governors Bruce Rauner and Scott Walker, respectively.

Republicans did hold onto governorships in a number of closely-watched states, most notably in Ohio, where Mike DeWine (R) comfortably defeated Richard Cordray (D), in Florida where Ron DeSantis (R) held off Andrew Gillum (D), and in Georgia, where Brian Kemp (R) edged Stacey Abrams (D).

As a result, Republicans continue to hold the majority of U.S. governorships, by a count of 27 to 23.

It was also a good year for women running for governor. A record 16 women were major party nominees. Nine of the women won and are currently serving as governor: Kay Ivey (R-AL; incumbent), Kim Reynolds (R-IA; incumbent); Laura Kelly (D-KS); Janet Mills (D-ME); Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM); Kate Brown (D-OR; incumbent); Gina Raimondo (D-RI; incumbent), and Kristi Noem (R-SD). This ties a record set in 2004 (then tied in 2007) for most women concurrently serving as governor. Mills, Noem, and Reynolds are the first women to be elected governor in their respective states; while Reynolds was an incumbent, she succeeded to the governorship when former Governor Terry Branstad (R) resigned to become ambassador to China. Reynolds ran for a full term in 2018 and won, becoming the first woman elected governor of Iowa.

In another historic first, Jared Polis (D-CO) became the first out gay male candidate to be elected governor in U.S. history; Kate Brown (D-OR), who is bisexual, was reelected in Oregon. There were three African-American and three Native-American candidates in this year’s races, but all but one were unsuccessful. Kevin Stitt (R), a member of the Cherokee Nation, won his race to become governor of Oklahoma.

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 researching this page.

 

 2018 Results

State Incumbent New Governor
Alabama Kay Ivey (R) Kay Ivey (R)
Alaska Bill Walker (I)* Mike Dunleavy (R)
Arizona Doug Ducey (R) Doug Ducey (R)
Arkansas Asa Hutchinson (R) Asa Hutchinson (R)
California Jerry Brown (D) Gavin Newsom (D)
Colorado John Hickenlooper (D) Jared Polis (D)
Connecticut Dannel Malloy (D) Ned Lamont (D)
Florida Rick Scott (R) Ron DeSantis (R)
Georgia Nathan Deal (R) Brian Kemp (R)
Hawaii David Ige (D) David Ige (D)
Idaho Butch Otter (R) Brad Little (R)
Illinois Bruce Rauner (R)** J.B. Pritzker (D)
Iowa Kim Reynolds (R) Kim Reynolds (R)
Kansas Jeff Colyer (R)*** Laura Kelly (D)
Maine Paul LePage (R) Janet Mills (D)
Maryland Larry Hogan (R) Larry Hogan (R)
Massachusetts Charlie Baker (R) Charlie Baker (R)
Michigan Rick Snyder (R) Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Minnesota Mark Dayton (D) Tim Walz (D)
Nebraska Pete Ricketts (R) Pete Ricketts (R)
Nevada Brian Sandoval (R) Stephen Sisolak (D)
New Hampshire Chris Sununu (R) Chris Sununu (R)
New Mexico Susana Martinez (R) Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)
New York Andrew Cuomo (D) Andrew Cuomo (D)
Ohio John Kasich (R) Mike DeWine (R)
Oklahoma Mary Fallin (R) Kevin Stitt (R)
Oregon Kate Brown (D) Kate Brown (D)
Pennsylvania Tom Wolf (D) Tom Wolf (D)
Rhode Island Gina Raimondo (D) Gina Raimondo (D)
South Carolina Henry McMaster (R) Henry McMaster (R)
South Dakota Dennis Daugaard (R) Kristi Noem (R)
Tennessee Bill Haslam (R) Bill Lee (R)
Texas Greg Abbott (R) Greg Abbott (R)
Vermont Phil Scott (R) Phil Scott (R)
Wisconsin Scott Walker (R)** tony Evers (D)
Wyoming Matt Mead (R) Mark Gordon (R)

*Walker initially ran for reelection but withdrew from the race on October 19, 2018.
**Rauner and Walker ran for reelection and were defeated.
***Colyer lost his primary race to Kris Kobach (R), who went on to lose to Kelly.

 

 

Political Party

partyAffil19

27 Republicans
23 Democrats
+

The Democratic Party picked up a net seven seats in the 2018 elections. Democrats won gubernatorial seats formerly held by Republicans in the following states: Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Republicans lost a net six seats, losing those seven states but picking up a governorship in Alaska, where the incumbent was an Independent. There are currently no Independent governors in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

Partisan control of government

State Legislature
Governor      Democratic   Republican    Divided Total
  Democrat   14   8 1 23
Republican     4 21 1**   26*
Total:   18 30 2**   49*

  * Nebraska has a unicameral, non-partisan legislature

** In Alaska, Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives, but
a coalition of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans have gained effective control

 

 

 

Gender

Gender 2019

 

As of May 2019, nine of the nation’s governors are women: Kay Ivey (AL); Kim Reynolds (IA); Laura Kelly (KS); Janet Mills (ME); Gretchen Whitmer (MI); Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM); Kate Brown (OR); Gina Raimondo (RI); and Kristi Noem (SD). Three of these women (Ivey, Reynolds, and Noem) are Republicans and six (Kelly, Mills, Whitmer, Grisham, Brown, and Raimondo) are Democrats. 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.

 

 

 

 

Race

Race and ethnicity 2019

 

Forty-seven of the nation’s governors are white.  Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) is Hispanic and David Ige (D-HI) is Asian. Kevin Stitt (R-OK) is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

 

 

 

 

 

Religion

17 Roman Catholic
+2 Presbyterian
+1 Baptist
+1 Evangelical
+1 Jewish
+8 Christian
11 No religion listed*
+1 Buddhist
+1 Lutheran
+2 Protestant
+3 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

Nine governors have served in the Armed Forces.

41 No military service
+5 Army (Matt Bevin, KY; John Bel Edwards, LA; Mike Parson, MO; Henry McMaster, SC
+++(Army Reserve); Ralph Northam, VA)
+2 National Guard (Tim Walz, MN; Gary Herbert, UT)
+2 Navy (Ron DeSantis, FL; Eric Holcomb, IN)

 

 

 

Age

(age at most recent inauguration/swearing in)

Gubernatorial Age by Decade (at most recent inauguration)

Average:  58.30

Youngest (current age):  40 (Ron DeSantis, R-FL; born on September 14, 1978)

Oldest (current age):  74 (Kay Ivey, R-AL; born on October 15, 1944)

 

 

 

 

 

Marital status

45  currently married
+5  not currently married

 

 

 

Children

 

+Governors and Number of Kids2  have no children
+1  has 1 child
18  have 2 children
18  have 3 children
+5  have 4 children
+2  have 5 children
+2  have 6 children
+1  has 8 children
+1  has 9 children

Average     3.00 children

 

 

 

Education

32  advanced degree
48  Bachelors degree
+2  Attended college but did not receive degree (Mike Parson, MO; Gary Herbert, UT)
+1  Rhodes Scholar (Gina Raimondo, RI)
+1  Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) (Dr. Ralph Northam, VA)
+3  Doctorate (Ph.D.) (Tom Wolf, PA – Political Science; Gina
+++Raimondo, RI – Sociology; Tony Evers, WI – Educational Administration)
+7  Masters degree (MA/MS) (Mike Dunleavey, AK – Education; John Carney, DE – Public Administration; +++Laura Kelly, KS – Therapeutic Recreation; Tim Walz, MN – Education; Phil Bryant, MS – Political +++Science; Tom Wolf, PA – Philosophy; Tony Evers, WI – Educational Administration)
+8  Masters in Business (MBA) (Ned Lamont, CT; David Ige, HI; Charlie Baker, MA; Pete Ricketts, NE Steve
+++Sisolak, NV; Phil Murphy, NJ; Doug Burgum, ND; Jim Justice, WV)
15  Law degree (JD)

 

 

 

Previous elected experience

The nation’s governors bring a variety of past professional experiences with them into the office.  Many 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 2019 Governors’ Previous Experience Chart. Some governors are counted in more than one category, as they have served in more than one office.

10    in the lower chamber of their state government
13    in the upper chamber of their state government
+9    in the United States House of Representatives
+1    in the United States Senate (Ohio)

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

*Note: Eric Holcomb (R-IN) was appointed lieutenant governor under then-Governor Mike Pence (R) when the previous lieutenant governor resigned to take another position. Holcomb was never elected to the position, instead running for governor in 2016 when Pence chose to run for Vice President of the United States rather than a second term as governor.

11    no prior elective office

+++++4 of the 11 previously held non-elected government or political offices (Larry Hogan, R-MD (Secretary of
+++++Appointments); Charlie Baker, R-MA (state Secretary of Health and Human Services);
+++++Phil Murphy, D-NJ (U.S. Ambassador to Germany); Tom Wolf, D-PA (Secretary of Revenue))

+++++7 of the 11 did not hold a governmental or political office before becoming governor (J.B. Pritzker, D-IL
+++++Matt Bevin, R-KY; Pete Ricketts, R-NE; Doug Burgum, R-ND; Kevin Stitt, R-OK; Bill
+++++Lee, R-TN; Jim Justice, R-WV)*

*Note: Ricketts and Bevin previously ran for the U.S. Senate. Pritzker previously ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and founded Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century and was involved in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

 

 

 

Place of birth

13   not born in the state they now lead
+1   born outside the United States (Kate Brown, D-OR; born in Spain)

 

 

 

 

Looking Ahead

2019 Gov Elec MapIt will be a much quieter gubernatorial election year in 2019 than it was in 2018. Only three states will hold gubernatorial contests this year: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In Kentucky and Louisiana, incumbents Matt Bevin (R-KY) and John Bel Edwards (D-LA) will attempt to hold onto their seats. Mississippi, meanwhile, will be an open seat, as incumbent Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited.

In Kentucky, the primary took place on May 21, 2019. Bevin held off a challenge from Robert Goforth to secure the Republican nomination. He will defend his seat against current Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), son of former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D, 2007-2015). Early polling suggests the race could be close. The other two states hold late primaries, with Mississippi’s primary next, on August 6, 2019. The Louisiana primary (in which all candidates appear on the same ballot) will not take place until October 12, 2019.

 

 

 

 

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