Governor of California

The governor of California is the head of state and head of government of the U.S. state of California. The California governor is the chief executive of the state government and the commander-in-chief of the California National Guard and the California State Guard.

Governor of California
Seal of the Governor of California
Standard of the Governor
Gavin Newsom

since January 7, 2019
California Executive Branch
StyleThe Honorable
ResidenceCalifornia Governor's Mansion
SeatSacramento, California
Term lengthFour-year term, renewable once, consecutively
Inaugural holderPeter Hardeman Burnett
FormationDecember 20, 1849
SalaryUS$210,000 (2020)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

Established in the Constitution of California, the governor's responsibilities also include making the annual State of the State address to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced. The position was created in 1849, the year before California became a state.

The current governor of California is Democrat Gavin Newsom, who was inaugurated on January 7, 2019.

Gubernatorial elections, oath, and term of office


Any candidate for Governor must be a U.S. Citizen, be a registered voter, not be convicted of a felony involving bribery, embezzlement, or extortion, and not having previously served two terms since November 6, 1990.[2]

Election and oath of Governor

Governors are elected by popular ballot and serve terms of four years, with a limit of two terms, if served after November 6, 1990.[3] Governors take the following oath:

I (Governor) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

Governors take office on the first Monday after January 1 after their election.

Gubernatorial removal

There are two methods available to remove a governor before the expiration of the gubernatorial term of office:

Impeachment and removal by the legislature

The governor can be impeached for "misconduct in office" by the State Assembly and removed by a two-thirds vote of the State Senate.

Recall by the voters

Petitions signed by California state voters equal to 12% of the last vote for the office of governor (with signatures from each of five counties equal to 1% of the last vote for Governor in the county) can launch a gubernatorial recall election. The voters can then vote on whether or not to recall the incumbent Governor, and on the same ballot can vote for a potential replacement.

If a majority of the voters in the election vote to recall the Governor, then the person who gains a plurality of the votes in the replacement race will become Governor.

The 2003 California gubernatorial recall election began with a petition drive that successfully forced incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis into a special recall election. It marked the first time in the history of California that a governor faced a recall election: Davis was subsequently voted out of office, becoming the second governor in the history of the United States to be recalled after Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. He was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Current governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election which is expected to take place in September of 2021.[4]

Relationship with Lieutenant Governor of California

Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) and Governor Gray Davis (right) with President George W. Bush in 2003

The Lieutenant Governor of California is separately elected during the same election, not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. As such, California had a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor of different parties for 28 of the 33 years between 1978 and 2011, whereas previously, this had only occurred in 1875, 1886, 1894 and 1916-1917 due to the resignation or death of an incumbent Governor or Lieutenant Governor.

This occasionally becomes significant, since the California Constitution provides that all the powers of the Governor fall to the Lieutenant Governor whenever the governor is not in the state of California, with the Lieutenant Governor sometimes signing or vetoing legislation or making political appointments whenever the Governor leaves the state.

In practice, there is a gentlemen's agreement for the Lieutenant Governor not to perform more than perfunctory duties while the Governor is away from the state: this agreement was violated when Mike Curb was in office, as he signed several executive orders at odds with the Brown administration when Brown was out of the state. Court rulings have upheld the Lieutenant Governor's right to perform the duties and assume all of the prerogatives of Governor while the Governor is out of the state.[5]

The Lieutenant Governor is also the president of the California State Senate.

Gubernatorial facts

Official residence and workplace

The California Governor's Mansion, official residence of the governor.
The Stanford Mansion, the official reception center for the Californian government and one of the official workplaces for the governor.

The official residence of Californian governor is the California Governor's Mansion, in Sacramento. The mansion has served as the residence of 14 governors, while others have declined to reside in the mansion, preferring to arrange for private residential arrangements. It is also one of the official workplaces for the governor.

The governor's primary official workplace is located within the Californian Capitol, in Sacramento.

The Stanford Mansion, in Sacramento, serves as one of the official workplaces for the governor, as well as the official reception center for the Californian government.

Age and longevity

Romualdo Pacheco, the first governor to be born in California and the only Hispanic ever to serve.
  • Peter Burnett had the longest post-governorship, 44 years. He left office in 1851 and died in 1895.
  • Excluding governors who died in office, Robert Waterman had the shortest post-governorship. He died on April 12, 1891, a short three months and four days after the expiration of his term.
  • Sworn in at the age of 30, J. Neely Johnson was the youngest governor from 1856 to 1858.
  • Sworn in at the age of 72, Jerry Brown was the oldest governor from 2011 to 2019.
  • Earl Warren was the only governor to serve more than two consecutive terms in office (1943–1953).
    • Jerry Brown previously served as governor for eight years (1975–1983) and returned to office 28 years later to serve as governor for another eight years (2011–2019).
  • Milton Latham served the shortest term in office of five days (January 9–14, 1860).
  • Of the 38 governors who served in office, only eight were actually born in California (seven after statehood):
  • Two governors were born outside the United States:
  • Only two governors have died in office:
    • Washington Bartlett on September 12, 1887
    • James Rolph on June 2, 1934
  • Ronald Reagan had the longest life-span of any governor, 93 years.
  • J. Neely Johnson had the shortest life-span of any governor, 47 years.
  • Both governors who died in office, Washington Bartlett in 1887 and James Rolph in 1934, served as Mayor of San Francisco shortly before becoming governor.
  • Two governors are related:
    • Pat Brown (1959–1967) was the father of twice-governor Jerry Brown (1975–1983, 2011–2019).

Transition events

Earl Warren, the only governor to ever serve as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jerry Brown, the only governor to serve four terms.
  • Five governors have resigned:
  • One governor has been recalled:
  • Seven governors took office without being elected to the governor's seat, having been elected as lieutenant governor and then ascending from that position:
    • Four of them did not run to succeed themselves, and were never elected governor:
      • John McDougal in 1851
      • John G. Downey in 1860
      • Romualdo Pacheco in 1875
      • Robert Waterman in 1887
    • The other three later ran for governor, and were elected to succeed themselves as governor:
      • William Stephens in 1917
      • Frank Merriam in 1934
      • Goodwin Knight in 1953
  • One governor has served two terms, and was elected to a non-consecutive third term (followed by a fourth term):
    • Jerry Brown in 2010 (Brown is the only living former governor of California who was elected to two terms before term limits were enacted on November 6, 1990)

Presidential campaigns

Ronald Reagan, the only Governor of California ever to serve as President of the United States.

See also

  • List of governors of California
  • List of Governors of California before 1850
  • List of Governors of California by age
  • List of Governors of California by education
  • Politics of California
  • Politics of California before 1900
  • Spouses of the Governors of California
  • List of burial places of governors of California
  • List of California state agencies


  1. "Gavin Newsom Is Highest-Paid Governor In The United States". October 22, 2019.
  2. "Summary of Qualifications and Requirements for the Offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor | California Secretary of State".
  3. Shelley, Kevin (October 2003). "Summary of Qualifications and Requirements for the Office of Governor" (PDF). California Secretary of State Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  4. Rosenhall, Lauren (July 1, 2021). "Newsom recall: Election date set for Sept. 14". CalMatters. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  5. In re Governorship, 26 Cal.3d 110, 401 (Supreme Court of California 1979) ("we conclude that the Lieutenant Governor has authority to exercise all gubernatorial powers of appointment while the Governor is physically absent from the state and that the Governor has authority to withdraw the appointment until the confirmation of appointment becomes effective.").
  6. Alastair Dallas (June 5, 2004). "Governors of California: 1849–2003". Archived from the original on March 8, 2005. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  7. "Californian Removes Himself From Running for No. 2 Spot". The New York Times. August 5, 1988.
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