Fast Facts About America’s Governors
Only three states held gubernatorial elections in 2019—Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi—but the races did not lack drama. While Mississippi was the only open seat available, as incumbent Phil Bryant (R) was ineligible to run due to term limits, it was also arguably the most straightforward race. Tate Reeves (R), lieutenant governor under Bryant, won the Republican nomination after a run-off, while the Democrats nominated state Attorney General Jim Hood. The race was closer than expected, but Reeves ultimately prevailed 51.9% – 46.8%.
Democrats expected to fare better in Louisiana where incumbent Governor Jon Bel Edwards faced a challenge from Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Bel Edwards and Rispone were the top two finishers in an October “jungle” primary. Bel Edwards successfully defended his seat in a close November run-off, 51.3% – 48.7%.
The most discussed gubernatorial race of the year took place in Kentucky. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear—son of former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (2007-2015)—challenged incumbent Governor Matt Bevin (R) in a tight race that received national attention. Beshear ultimately pulled off the upset, winning an extremely close race by less than 5,000 votes (49.2% – 48.8%).
As a result of these three races, Democrats were able to continue their recent gubernatorial gains, picking up one seat after gaining seven seats in 2018. Republicans continue to hold a majority of the nation’s governors’ seats. That margin, however—which was 33 seats to the Democrats’ 16 (with one independent) as recently as 2018—is down to 26-24.
Below are some fast facts about the nation’s 50 governors.
The Democratic Party picked up one seat in the 2019 elections, in Kentucky. There are currently no Independent or third party governors in the U.S.
Partisan Control of Government
| * Nebraska has a unicameral, non-partisan legislature
** In Alaska, Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives, but
As of January 2020, 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.
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.
17 Roman Catholic
11 No religion listed*
*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.
Eight governors have served in the Armed Forces.
42 No military service
4 Army (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 at most recent inauguration/swearing in)
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)
45 currently married
5 not currently married
2 have no children
1 has 1 child
18 have 2 children
19 have 3 children
5 have 4 children
2 have 5 children
2 have 6 children
1 has 8 children
Average 2.88 children
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)
6 Masters degree (MA/MS) (Mike Dunleavey, AK – Education; John Carney, DE – Public Administration; Laura Kelly, KS –Therapeutic Recreation; Tim Walz, MN – Education; 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)
16 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 2020 Governors’ Previous Experience Chart. Some governors are counted in more than one category, as they have served in more than one office.
9 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*
8 state attorney general
5 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.
10 no prior elective office
4 of the 10 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))
6 of the 10 did not hold a governmental or political office before becoming governor (J.B. Pritzker, D-IL; 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
12 not born in the state they now lead
1 born outside the United States (Kate Brown, D-OR; born in Spain)
While most Americans will be focused on the presidential race in 2020, 11 states will also hold gubernatorial elections: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. Only two of the races are likely to feature open seats. In Montana, Governor Steve Bullock (D) is term limited from running and Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) has announced that he does not plan to seek a third full term.
Seven of the states holding gubernatorial elections in 2020 are currently held by Republican governors while only four have Democratic incumbents. While that could provide an opportunity for Democrats to continue their recent trend of picking up governors seats, the two races that are expected to be mostly closely contested–in Montana and North Carolina–are both currently Democratic.