Electing Americas Governors: The Politics of Executive Elections

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That may change now that Ms. Hallquist is the nominee, and she is likely to draw national attention — and fund-raising dollars — because of the historic potential of her candidacy. Before she ran for governor, Ms. Hallquist spent 12 years as the chief executive of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, an in-state power utility that she helped to bring back from near ruin.

Her transition from male to female took place in , while she was at the helm of the company , and was the subject of a documentary film made by her son. As a candidate, she made it part of her stump speech, drawing knowing laughs from her female supporters at a fund-raiser this summer as she talked about what it was like to experience life as a woman for the first time. Hallquist said. But she also emphasized her experience with energy and infrastructure, and made speeding up internet access, which lags in some rural parts of the state, a key campaign pledge.

Previous governors have made similar promises, but failed to fully deliver. On Tuesday night, she also called for progressive keystones like universal Medicare and stemming climate change. Hallquist — who voted for Mr.


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Scott in , according to the newsweekly Seven Days — also sought to tie her victory to the broader Democratic backlash against President Trump. With 96 percent of precincts reporting by late Tuesday night, Ms.

Hallquist had easily beaten a Democratic field of other little-known candidates, including Ethan Sonneborn, a year-old who garnered 8 percent of the vote. In a statement , the Republican Governors Association posted an image of Ms. Vermont is a socially liberal state that in became the first in the nation to establish civil unions, and Ms. Billado said, referring to Ms.

Democrats Capture Control of House; G.O.P. Holds Senate

Hallquist and Mr. If severe winter weather is forecasted or in the event of civil unrest, governor s also have the power to call upon the National Guard to assist residents and first responders or aid in storm recovery.

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When governors declare a state of emergency, National Guard troops can be activated to go into local areas and assist with emergency efforts in whatever capacity they are needed. Governors feel the weight of their decisions as they try to balance the political risks of overreacting and the human costs of letting the state be caught unprepared for these and other major natural disasters. As the chief spokesperson, they take all the blame or all the credit for their actions.

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With that said, it is important to note that presidents can enlist the National Guard for federal service as well. Following a massive snowstorm in November , New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the mobilization of more than five hundred members of the National Guard to assist with snow removal and traffic control.

Army National Guard. Governors also have the power to spare or enhance the lives of individuals convicted of crimes in their state. Although they may choose to exercise this formal power only during the closing days of their term, if at all, most governors have the authority to grant pardons just as U.

Electing America's Governors

A pardon absolves someone of blame for a crime and can secure his or her release from prison. In the past ten years, the governors of New Jersey and Illinois have commuted the sentences of all inmates on death row before repealing the death penalty in their states. Despite the tremendous formal powers that go with the job, being governor is still personally and professionally challenging.

The demands of the job are likely to restrict time with family and require forgoing privacy. In addition, governors will often face circumstances beyond their control. This can make working together more challenging and lead to less cooperation during the legislative session. Another challenge for governors is the plural executive, which refers to the fact that many state officials, such as the lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state are elected independently from the governor; hence, the governor has no direct control over them the way a president might have sway over U.

Governors can also face spending restrictions due to the economic climate in their state. They may have to make unpopular decisions that weaken their support among voters. The federal government can mandate that states perform some function without giving them any funds to do so.

Finally, as we saw above, governors can be swept up in crises or natural disasters they did not anticipate and could not have foreseen. This can drain their energy and hamper their ability to generate good public policy. State legislatures serve three primary functions. They perform a lawmaking function by researching, writing, and passing legislation.

Members represent their districts and work to meet requests for help from citizens within it.

Three Governors Controversy

Finally, legislatures perform an oversight function for the executive branch. The number of bills introduced in any given session varies. Some state legislature s have more restrictive rules concerning the number of bills any one member can sponsor. Legislators get ideas for bills from lobbyists of various types of interest groups, ranging from corporate groups to labor unions to advocacy organizations. Most bills die in committee and never receive a second or third reading on the floor of the legislature.

Lawmaking requires frequent consensus, not just among the legislators in a given house but also between the two chambers. Besides generating public policy, state legislatures try to represent the interests of their constituents. Edmund Burke was a political philosopher who theorized that representatives are either delegates or trustees. On the other hand, trustee s believe they were elected to exercise their own judgment and know best because they have the time and expertise to study and understand an issue. A trustee will also be more likely to vote his or her conscience on issues that are personal to him or her, such as on same-sex marriage or abortion rights.

Regardless of whether representatives adopt a delegate or a trustee mentality, they will all see it as their duty to address the concerns and needs of the people they represent. Typically, this will entail helping members in the district who need assistance or have problems with the government they want addressed. For instance, a constituent may write an elected official asking for help dealing with the bureaucracy such as in a decision made by tax commission, requesting a letter of recommendation for acceptance into a military academy, or proposing a piece of legislation the member can help turn into a law.

Electing America's Governors - The Politics of Executive Elections | D. Leal | Palgrave Macmillan

Legislators also try to bring particularized benefits back to their district. These benefits might include money that can be spent on infrastructure improvements or grants for research. Finally, members will accept requests from local government officials or other constituents to attend parades, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, or other celebratory events within their district.

They will also work with teachers and faculty to visit classes or meet with students on field trips to the state capitol. Department of Transportation.

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State legislatures may request that agency heads provide testimony about spending in hearings, or they may investigate particular bureaucratic agencies to ensure that funds are being disbursed as desired. In most states, the legislative function is divided between two bodies: a state house and a state senate.

The only exception is Nebraska, which has a unicameral state senate of forty-nine members. This variation can lead to differences in the type of policies passed and the amount of power legislatures wield relative to that of the governor. State senates range in size from twenty members in Alaska to sixty-seven members in Minnesota.


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The size of the institution can have consequences for the number of citizens each member represents; larger bodies have a smaller legislator-to-constituent ratio assuming even populations. Larger institutions can also complicate legislative business because reaching consensus is more difficult with more participants. The term length in the state house is frequently two years, while in the state senate it is more commonly four years. These differences have consequences, too, because representatives in the state house, with the next election always right around the corner, will need to focus on their reelection campaigns more frequently than senators.


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On the other hand, state senators may have more time to focus on public policy and become policy generalists because they each must serve on multiple committees due to their smaller numbers. The number of legislators and term length varies by state. In , according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, women made up However, the number varies a great deal across states.

For instance, in Colorado and Vermont, women account for just over 40 percent of the state legislative membership. In , only one-quarter of state legislators across the United States were women. However, the percentage of women in state legislature varies greatly from state to state. Data on minority representatives is more difficult to obtain, but estimates from the National Conference of State Legislatures paired with census estimates from show that African Americans and Latinos are both underrepresented in state government relative to their percentage of the population.

In , African Americans made up approximately 9 percent of state legislators, compared to the 13 percent of the population they constitute nationwide.