Fast Facts About America’s Governors

 

Overview

There were eleven gubernatorial races in 2020 and the overall theme was status quo. Nine of the eleven races featured incumbents running for re-election—and all 9 incumbents won. As a result, Republicans held onto governorships in Indiana (Eric Holcomb), Missouri (Mike Parson), New Hampshire (Chris Sununu), North Dakota (Doug Burgum), Vermont (Phil Scott), and West Virginia (Jim Justice). Democratic incumbents won in Delaware (John Carney), North Carolina (Roy Cooper), and Washington (Jay Inslee).

Two states, Montana and Utah, held races for open seats. In Utah, Republicans easily held onto the seat, with Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox (R) comfortably winning the race to succeed retiring Governor Gary Herbert (R). The only seat to change party was in Montana, where Representative Greg Gianforte (R) defeated Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney (D) to take over for the term-limited Governor Steve Bullock (D).

With that lone pickup, Republicans now hold 27 of the nation’s governorships, with Democrats holding 23.

Below are some fast facts about the nation’s 50 governors.

 

Party

27 Republicans
23 Democrats

The Republican Party picked up one seat in the 2020 elections, in Montana. There are currently no Independent or third party governors in the U.S.

 

 

Partisan Control of Government

State Legislature
Governor      Democratic   Republican    Divided Total
  Democratic   15   7 1 23
Republican     3 22 1**   26*
Total:   18 29 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

As of January 2021, 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. Raimondo has been nominated to serve in President Joe Biden’s cabinet. If she is confirmed, she will resign as governor. 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

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

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

Seven 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)
1 National Guard (Tim Walz, MN)
2 Navy (Ron DeSantis, FL; Eric Holcomb, IN)

 

Age

(age at most recent inauguration/swearing in)

Average: 58.26

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

2 have no children
1 has 1 child
18 have 2 children
18 have 3 children
7 have 4 children
2 have 5 children
1 have 6 children
1 has 8 children

Average 2.86 children

 

 

Education

33 advanced degree
49 Bachelors degree
1 Attended college but did not receive degree (Mike Parson, MO)
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; Greg Gianforte, MT – Computer 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)
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 2021 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
10 in the United States House of Representatives
1 in the United States Senate (Ohio)

13 lieutenant governor*
7 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

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

 

 

Looking Ahead in 2021

Only two states–New Jersey and Virginia–will hold gubernatorial elections in 2021, but as the first statewide races following the election of a new president, both will be closely-watched. While each race has its own key issues, including those surrounding the pandemic and the roll-out of the vaccination program, they will also likely be seen (rightly or wrongly) as early bellwethers on the popularity of the new presidential administration.

Both of the governorships up this year are currently held by Democrats. The New Jersey race will feature incumbent Governor Phil Murphy (D) running for reelection. In Virginia, the governor is limited to one term, leaving Governor Ralph Northam (D) ineligible to run. For more on both races, see our 2021 gubernatorial elections page.