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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 January 2018


Only two states – New Jersey and Virginia – held gubernatorial elections in 2017. In New Jersey, incumbent Chris Christie (R) was ineligible to run for reelection due to term limits. Lieutenant Governor Kim Gudagano (R) was the Republican nominee, facing former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D) in the general election. Murphy won the seat by a comfortable 56-42 margin, picking up the seat for the Democrats.

In Virginia, the only state where governors cannot serve consecutive terms, Democrats were attempting to defend a seat previously held by Terry McAuliffe (D).  Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D) faced former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie in what was expected to be a very close race. In the end, Northam won by a more-than-expected nine points.

Democrats therefore picked up a net one seat in the 2017 gubernatorial elections, but Republicans continue to dominate the nation’s governors’ seats, holding 33 seats to the Democrats’ 16 (one seat – Alaska – is held by an Independent).

While 2017 was a quiet year for gubernatorial elections, 2018 will be quite the opposite. Thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial elections this year. For more information on these races, click here.

 2017 Results

State Incumbent New Governor
New Jersey Chris Christie (R) Phil Murphy (D)
Virginia Terry McAuliffe (D) Ralph Northam (D)

*ran for re-election


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


33 Republicans
16 Democrats
+1 Independent (Bill Walker, I-AK)

The Democratic Party picked up a net 1 seat in the 2017 elections. Republicans did pick up a seat earlier in 2017 when Gov. Jim Justice (WV) switched parties from Democrat to Republican. As a result, Republicans currently hold 33 state governorships, as they did at the beginning of 2017.




Partisan control of government

State Legislature
Governor      Democratic   Republican    Divided Total
  Democrat   8   6 2 16
Republican   6 25 1   32*
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.






18 Roman Catholic
+5 Presbyterian
+4 Baptist
+2 Congregationalist
+2 Evangelical
+3 Jewish
+4 Christian
+5 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.

40 No military service
+5 Army (Nathan Deal, GA; Matt Bevin, KY; John Bel Edwards, LA; Henry McMaster, SC
+++(Army Reserve); Ralph Northam, VA)
+2 National Guard (Butch Otter, ID; Gary Herbert, UT)
+3 Navy (Rick Scott, FL; Eric Holcomb, IN; Eric Greitens, MO)




(age at first inauguration)


Average:  56.42

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





+GovsKids183  have no children
+3  have 1 child
15  have 2 children
18  have 3 children
+6  have 4 children
+1  has 5 children
+3  have 6 children
+1  has 9 children

Average     2.86 children





36  advanced degree
49  Bachelors degree
+1  Attended college but did not receive degree (Scott Walker, WI)
+1  Rhodes Scholar (Gina Raimondo, RI)
+1  Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) (Dr. Ralph Northam, VA)
+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)
+8  Masters in Business (MBA) (Bruce Rauner, IL; David Ige, HI; Charlie Baker, MA; Paul LePage, ME; Rick
+++Snyder, MI; Pete Ricketts, NE; Phil Murphy, NJ; Jim Justice, WV)
20  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 2018 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
+7    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)

12    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); Phil Murphy, +++++D-NJ (U.S. Ambassador to Germany); Tom Wolf, D-PA (Secretary of Revenue); 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

2018 Open RacesThirty-six states will hold gubernatorial elections in 2018: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Iowa; Kansas; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Mexico; New York; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. Republicans currently hold 26 of these states, while Democrats hold nine (one, Alaska, is held by an Independent.

For more information on these races, including the number of open seats that will be contested, see our 2018 gubernatorial elections page.





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